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Encyclopedia > T Bone Burnett
Cover of "Proof Through the Night", 1983.

Joseph Henry Burnett aka T-Bone Burnett, (born January 14, 1948), in St. Louis, Missouri is an American songwriter, record producer, musician and singer.

In addition to being one of the most well respected record producers in the music business and a solo performer, Burnett's songs have been covered by artists like k.d. lang ("Till the Heart Caves In"), Los Lobos, Sixpence None the Richer ("Carry You"), Tonio K, Emmylou Harris, Arlo Guthrie, Warren Zevon, Peter Case, B. J. Thomas and others.

Three years after releasing his own 1972 album, The B-52 Band and the Fabulous Skylarks, Bob Dylan asked Burnett to play guitar for his "Rolling Thunder Revue" tour. When that tour had ended, Burnett and two other members of Dylan's band, David Mansfield and Steven Soles formed The Alpha Band. The band released three albums, The Alpha Band in 1977, Spark In The Dark in 1977, and The Statue Makers of Hollywood in 1978.

Burnett then revived his solo career and began producing albums for artists like Counting Crows' August and Everything After, Los Lobos' How Will the Wolf Survive?, Elvis Costello's King of America and Spike, the Wallflowers' Bringing Down the Horse, Marshall Crenshaw's Downtown, Spinal Tap's Break Like The Wind, the BoDeans' Love & Hope and Sex & Dreams, Gillian Welch's Revival and Hell Among The Yearlings, The Roy Orbison tribute A Black and White Night, two albums for Bruce Cockburn, and nearly everything released by wife, Sam Phillips.

In 1985, Burnett teamed up with good friend Elvis Costello for a single called "The People's Limousine" under the moniker of "The Coward Brothers".

In 1987 Burnett produced Roy Orbison's two-record album, In Dreams: The Greatest Hits. After that, he was the musical director and a guitarist for Orbison's hugely successful HBO television special, A Black and White Night.

T-Bone Burnett was called the best songwriter in America by Rolling Stone Magazine.

In 2000, Burnett produced the soundtrack for the Coen Brothers film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?. The award winning score featured music from Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch, and others performing traditional American folk music, blues and bluegrass - reminiscent of Burnett's 1986 self titled release. A documentary film was also made while recording the soundtrack, called Down from the Mountain and featuring many of the same artists.


  • The B-52 Band & the Fabulous Skylarks, 1972
  • Truth Decay, 1980
  • Proof Through the Night, 1983
  • Behind the Trap Door, 1984
  • T-Bone Burnett, 1986
  • The Talking Animals, 1988
  • The Criminal Under My Own Hat, 1992


  • "Tooth of Crime", written for the Sam Shepard play of the same name, which premiered in New York in 1997.
  • "The True False Identity", his first album of original songs since 1992's "The Criminal Under My Own Hat".



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