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Dr. Luke: The Man Behind Pop's Biggest Hits

Lukasz Gottwald, better known as Dr. Luke, is the pop music producer behind hits from artists including Ke$ha, Katy Perry, Pink and Kelly Clarkson. In the last five years, he's scored an impressive 18 No. 1 hits, making him one of pop's most bankable producers.

"Basically I feel like my role is to find great songs with the artists, for the artists, and have them shine," he tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer.

Dr. Luke's first big break as a songwriter-producer was 2004's "Since You Been Gone" sung by former American Idol contestant Kelly Clarkson. At the same time, he enjoyed a solid career as a guitarist and session musician. From 1997 until 2007 when he left to focus on producing, Dr. Luke was the lead guitarist for the prestigious Saturday Night Live house band.


Although Dr. Luke has churned out the pop hits, some worry he has stolen the role of songwriter from the artist. But he says this role changes over time.

"[P]rior to Bruce Springsteen, I don't think Elvis wrote a lot of his songs," he says. "I don't think during Motown, a lot of those artists wrote a lot of those songs."

Some of Dr. Luke's collaborators do take part in the songwriting process. Katy Perry, for example, co-wrote every song on Teenage Dream, her Billboard-topping third album. Perry is one among a large group of young, female pop artists whom Dr. Luke has worked with. He says that nowadays it's women who dominate pop music.

"If you look at the charts," says Dr. Luke, "there's not a lot of male artists… and for whatever reason, female artists sell a lot more records and get played a lot more on the radio."

Dr. Luke emphasizes the continuing importance of radio to the music industry. Radio play can reach millions of people in a week, whereas lesser played artists struggle to fill seats in a concert venue. Even though he's now known as a hitmaker, Dr. Luke says his own dedication to quality work is more important than any pressure he might feel from artists he works with.


"I always want to make sure that I do a good job for myself anyway," he says. "If I'm not happy with something and I don't feel like it's right, I won't put it out."

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