Born Vladamir Nikitich, 1958 in Brazil to Russian parents Nikita and Tatiana; studied music at Conservatory of Music in San Mateo, California; married Corinne, 1988, three children: Christina, Isabella, and Andrei. Addresses: Record company Sony 550 Music, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022.

Though they rarely become stars themselves, producers and songwriters are often crucial in making stars of others or at least enabling established talents to remain in the spotlight. This certainly seems to be the case with Walter Afanasieff. While he has been an enormously successful songwriter, producer and musician, working with some of the biggest pop music names in the last two decades, Afanasieff is hardly a household name even to the fans of the artists he's closely associated with (most notably, Mariah Carey). Nevertheless, Afanasieff's stamp appears on many of the top popular hits of the 1990s.

Born Vladamir Nikitich in Brazil in 1958, his Russian parents Nikita and Tatiana moved to San Francisco when Afanasieff was five years old. By then, he had already been studying classical piano for two years. Even as a child Afanasieff, who was exposed early on to a variety of musical styles, knew he wanted a career in the music industry. As he recounted to David Farinella in a 1998 Billboard article, "I would sit there as a little kid, rocking on my bed, listening to the Beatles, and know that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to make music . . . I had this internal clock, this musical rhythm, this music inside of me from day one." A young Afanasieff enrolled at the Conservatory of Music in San Mateo, California, before heading to Europe for additional schooling in classical music. Returning to California in 1978, he developed an interest in jazz that would lead to work with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and Narada Michael Walden.

Before becoming a producer, Afanasieff was a well-known session musician and composer in the San Francisco area, spent time in a number of bands, and backed vocalists such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Whitney Houston. He got his start playing with Ponty, and later Walden, with whom he worked for approximately 10 years and who gave him the nickname "Babylove." His time with Walden, Afanasieff told Farinella, was particularly important to his career development. "I think the greatest teacher was Narada, because he truly is a magnificent producer," Afanasieff said. "He's very talented, he's very creative and improvisational. The one thing I really learned from him is how to do vocals."

After working with Walden for a decade, Afanasieff was appointed an executive staff producer for Sony Music in late 1990. Early on in his tenure at Sony, Afanasieff was involved with several successful projects including the Celine Dion-Peabo Bryson duet "Beauty and the Beast" for the Disney movie of the same name, and Carey's Emotions album. "I just happened to get lucky having a bunch of great artists to work with," Afanasieff told Billboard's Susan Nunziata in a 1992 article.

If he isn't famous in his own right, though, Afanasieff's credits are legion. Among his many songwriting credits alone are his collaborations with fellow songwriters Walden, Preston Glass, and Kenny Williams on "Don't Make Me Wait For Love," a single on Kenny G's 1986 album Duotones. With John Bettis, he co-wrote the title track from Peabo Bryson's 1991 album Can You Stop the Rain, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Song of the Year. The same year Afanasieff co-wrote "Missing You Now" with Michael Bolton and legendary songwriter Diane Warren, which appeared on Bolton's best-selling Time, Love and Tenderness album. Afanasieff and Bettis also collaborated on "If You Go Away," a 1992 song which appeared on greatest hits album from NTKOB (formerly New Kids on the Block). With David Foster and Linda Thompson, he co-wrote the 1997 Celine Dion-Barbra Streisand duet "Tell Him," which appeared on both singers' albums that year.

Afanasieff is probably best known, however, for his work with Carey. He has had a hand in writing, producing, and arranging on the bulk of Carey's work, beginning with her self-titled 1990 debut album. Afanasieff produced subsequent releases by Carey, including hit singles such as 1993's "Hero" and "One Sweet Day," the 1995 duet with Boyz II Men. Besides working behind the scenes with Carey, Afanasieff has had occasion to share the spotlight with her as well. He backed Carey on piano during her May 20, 1992 performance on MTV's Unpluggedshow, which was later released as an EP. His reputation as a top producer caught the attention of Hollywood, as well. Afanasieff worked on a number of movie soundtracks, including 1991's Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Bodyguard in 1992, and Hercules in1997. With Walden he co-wrote, co-produced, and arranged the title track for the 1989 James Bond film A License to Kill, which was performed by Gladys Knight.

While he has worked on a number of high profile projects and with a number of well-known artists, Afanasieff said he enjoys the challenge of working with new performers as well. "In a pure, honest sense," he toldBillboard in 1998, "I would prefer an artist who is an unknown, unheard artist." One of the newer artists he was working with in 1999 was the Australian pop duo Savage Garden (Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones).

His musical craftsmanship and skill did not gone unnoticed by the music community. In a 1998 tribute in Billboard, Carey praised Afanasieff as a "knowledgeable musician," and collaborator Bettis added that Afanasieff "can literally play, write, or produce anything." Sony Music head Thomas Mottola told Billboard for the tribute, "One of the things I respect most about Walter is that, for him, a great record is about feeling, about emotion, and each element of his productions serves to bring that out of the songs. You know when you work with him he's going to dig deep and come up with something that sounds classic and brand new at one and the same time. And he achieves these results with very different artists."

For Afanasieff, producing is apparently ultimately something of an organic process. "I wasn't a guy who studied the engineers and studio techniques and 'miking' and what consoles everybody was using . . . I'd always read that, but that wasn't what I was interested in," he told Farinella. "I was into pure music, what moved me musically, what sounds the best, what keyboard sound work with that bass line, the chord changes, the vocals, the harmonies, the orchestra."

by K. Michelle Moran

Walter Afanasieff's Career

Worked as a session musician and composer in the San Fransisco area backing artists such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Whitney Houston; worked with jazz violinist Jean- Luc Ponty; worked with Narada Michael Walden; appointed executive staff producer of Sony Music, 1990; wrote and produced songs for Michael Bolton, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Kenny G, Kenny Loggins, and others.

Walter Afanasieff's Awards

Nominated for Grammy Award for "Can You Stop the Rain," a 1991 Peabo Bryson song he co-wrote with John Bettis.

Famous Works

Further Reading

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Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 6 years ago

To "his daughters friend" aka his daughter, get a life, your dad has done more for you and put up with more than anyone could possibly imagine. Most people would have had you arrested, disowned you or at least gotten a restraining order.

over 6 years ago

While Walter is very talented. I am friends with his daughter and he is extremely neglectful to her. His career is successful but is that more imporant than having a successful family life? I think not

about 7 years ago

I just recently found out the amazing work that Walter has done! Everyone of my favorite songs seems to be either written or produced by him. I read his wiki and he seems to still be doing well. God Bless Walter, Katie and his children.

over 7 years ago

If my memory serves me well, I played one gig w/Walter at a hotel near the Oakland Airport late 70's or early 80's. The guitar player was Chris Comozzi. In the 90's I realized Walter was working with Mariah Carey. I was thrilled that this talented guy had gone so far with his career. Not sure about Chris. A great musicain as well. My memory of Walter and Chris was that even at a small, unimportant venue, they played and performed great and so professionally. Memories.

almost 8 years ago

I just wonder why Walter and Mariah stopped working together. The two were the perfect pair of talent and nothing could ever replace that. I don't think there will ever be another talent like Mariah paired with a musical genius like Walter in the future ever! :( Someone get them back together!!!

almost 8 years ago

I also lived in the same city and went to school with Walter. Every day after lunch I would walk to my math class by way of the music building. I had the pleasure of hearing him practice the piano during that time. Right then I said to myself this guy is so gifted and will go far. He was so incredibly talented on so many instruments without effort. So glad to hear of all his success, he was always such a truly nice guy.

about 8 years ago

I grew up with Walter (Voka). His Mom is my younger brother's God-Mother. I remember way back then he always wanted to be involved with Music. When my Mother passed away, he still took time to call me and pay his respects. Always a good guy - even if he did beat me playin tennis back then.

over 8 years ago

I am looking for song name that I believe Mr. Afanasieff wrote for the HunchBack of Notre Dame. It has the words I gave my love. Beautiful slow song. Does anyone know the full name of this song. Please respond to stellalevin@ao.com

over 8 years ago

Back in the late 70s and early 80s we used to see Walter play with a band called Warriors, that included at various times and among others Joaquin Leivano (ostensibly the band leader), Narada Michael Walden, Randy Jackson (yes, that one, I believe), Steve Smith (if I remember correctly), and a great young (at that time) bass player named Keith something-or-other who probably played with Jean-Luc Ponty. Steven Kindler too, I think...well, that was awhile ago. Anyway, they'd play at relatively small places like Larry Blake's in Berkeley and some long-gone joint in Redwood City with $3 or $5 covers. Incredible to be able to see some of the best musicians in the world for so little in such intimate settings. Every time Joaquin would announce the next tune with "this one's by Walter," you knew it would a fantastic piece of music. That guy can really compose. I would love to have a recording of that music. A friend of mine made a tape once at Larry Blake's using a crappy little cassette recorder and it turned out surprisingly well. But who knows where that tape went. Walter also was genuinely approachable. We had several conversations with him during breaks or when they finished. A really nice guy, especially for someone so talented. It's good to see that he's been so successful.

over 8 years ago

It's does my heart good to have met you at the beginning. I have a fond memory of you stroking those piano keys in the music room at San Mateo High School. Your career and success is so well deserved, you had the talent and passion back then. what an honor to have met you even though you used to stare at my legs in class. Teri

over 8 years ago

I am a late comer to this blog and urge all to be decent and just talk about Walter professionally. I am here also because I wanted to find out more about this amazing musician. Well he is more amazing that I thought! I learn of Walter mostly through Mariah Carey pre-Glitter CDs. Carey of the 90's was the most incredible singer/composer by her own right. Teamed with Walter the two conquered the hearts and minds of millions around the world. Truly an amazing pair. I played their songs in a high quality system and the sound is totally special, emotional, engaging, precise. But I am disappointed the collaboration ended. While Walter moved on, Carey's music was never the same. She dropped a notch, then two notches and soon chased after the hip hop crowd with cheap stuff. The sophistication and emotion had all disappeared. Now I understand it is Walter who have made the bigger, defining difference other than the actual singing. If Cary won' work with Walter again, I truly hope Walter will find his next Carey. Walter 'owes' something to the millions who lost Carey!!

almost 9 years ago

as is sit here and listen to music of Mariah Anytime it takes a special and talented person compose such mix.

almost 9 years ago

I agree- I love Walter!

almost 9 years ago

I Love Walter´s work like i´ve said before and i wish him all the best i just wanted to tell him how much his work has done for me his musical skills and i´ve sung to songs he´s done with Mariah etc Hero and more Hero is my song it has helped through rough times in my life. Thank You Walter With Love Disa from iceland.

almost 10 years ago

I just discovered your work Walter Afanasieff through the song Can you stop the rain. Now, I'm researching everything you have done and I want to put a show together featuring the Wonder of your creations. Sunjiaa

about 9 years ago

Walter is a best musicians in tha world,hi have a good soul in his music,i like his music and i like soul & classic music Thank you Walter for your music I am Armenian,and armenians love your art,your music

about 9 years ago

Hi my name is Disa Maria and i am from Iceland i love Walter´s work on Mariah Carey,Celine Dion,Michael Bolton and Kenny G and just on every album he has contributed on i am 34 years old and i have a rare Lyric Colouratura Soprano and range about 6-7 Octaves i am in a church choir and i want a singin career and my dream is working with someone like walter he is to me the greatest musician i ´ve ever heard. A girl can dream right. And to you who are saying such bad things about Walter´s Past shame on you. i will send my love to his children and Girlfriend Katie Isabella Andrei and Christina God be with you always. Love and Piece from Dísa María Reykjavík Iceland.

about 9 years ago

I have been a fan of walter, I think he's a genious and would love the oppurtunity to work with him one day. I listen to his productions and have learnt alot from them. Walter, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK YOU ARE DOING!!! Alex

about 9 years ago

Walter is one of the best song-writers ever has has co-written with Mariah, and most of her best known and best songs are co-written with Walter, so thanks walter your the best!

over 9 years ago

I worked for Walter, he is hard working and very funny, and very smart, and is one of the best at what he does... I enjoyed working for him at Wally World, it was a fun time in my life...

over 9 years ago

Hi, Can anyone tell me where I can find Walter or contact him?? I'm in desperate need of good music. What is happening to the Industry?? I'm a big Mariah fan, and her songs lately are....well....flat or something. where the heck is the piano and the bluesy chord changes gone>??? WHERE IS WALTER??? HELP ME FIND HIM whereiswalter@hotmail.co.uk I just genuinely need some decent music, is all!!!