Mo Ostin, Legendary Recording Director of Warner Bros., Dies at No. 95 – Billboard

I bought itThe legendary label executive, who led Warner Brothers Records through a time of both artistic and commercial success for more than 30 years, died on July 31, at the age of 95.

Ostin, who signed and/or worked on such acts at Knot, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, REM, Randy Newman and many others, is “one of the greatest recording men of all time and the chief architect of the modern music business,” says Tom Corsonco-chairman and COO, Warner Records, and Aaron Bay-Schuckco-chairman and chief executive officer, Warner Records, in a joint statement.

“For Mo, the first and foremost thing is to help artists realize their vision,” their statement continued. “One of the key figures in the development of Warner Music Group, in the 1960s, Mo led Warner/Reprise Records into a golden era of revolutionary, culture-changing art. During his next three decades at the studio, he remained a tireless fighter for creative freedom, both because of the talent he nurtured and the people who worked for him. Mo has lived an extraordinary life doing what he loves, and he will be deeply missed throughout the industry he helped create, as well as the countless artists and co-workers he helped create. inspired to be their best selves. On behalf of everyone at Warner, we want to thank Mo for everything he’s done and for his inspiring faith in our bright future. We offer our condolences to his family at this difficult time.”

Ostin, who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 and received a Trustee Award from the Recording Academy in 2017, was born Morris Meyer Ostrofsky in New York and moved to Los Angeles, attended Fairfax High School and UCLA. After beginning his career at Verve Records, Ostin was recruited by Frank Sinatra to run his Reprise Records in 1960. Three years later, Warner Bros. Records acquired Reprise and Ostin quickly landed a pop star, signing with The Kinks. Soon after, he brought Hendrix, Mitchell and Neil Young to the label.

Ostin became president of Warner Bros. Records in 1970, presiding over the Warner and Reprise imprints until he retired as president/CEO in 1994. With an artist-first mentality, the label became the home of a series incredible artists throughout the ensuing period. his tenure, including Van Halen, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, B-52s, Paul Simon, ZZ Top, George Benson, Don Henley, Tom Petty, Green Day, Van Dyke Parks, Dire Straits, Chaka Khan, and, famous, Prince, who signed with the label in 1977.

Although Prince left the company in 1996, after accusing it of being “slave”, only to return in 2014, Ostin considered Prince a genius, comparing him to Sinatra in a 2016 interview. with Billboard after Prince’s death. He recalled the first time he heard Prince and the attitude of Warner Bros. how to the artist – and a silly offer – led to Prince choosing the agency: “Our head of advertising [at the time], Russ Thyret, received a demo from our Minnesota promoter, Owen Husney – he later became Prince’s manager. We were completely blown away and wanted to sign him immediately. There’s a lot of competition because other people know about him – A&M and Columbia are trying to sign him, and it’s getting very competitive. But A&M wanted his publication and he wasn’t going to give it up, so he delivered them. Columbia would only offer him a two LP deal, so we decided that we would offer him a three LP deal because we believe in him so strongly. And also because we value artists, he signed with us.”

Many artists have been with Ostin for decades, even after he left Warner Brothers, including Red hot chili’ Flea, who paid tribute on Instagram: “Mo Ostin is a true gentleman. He is honest, kind, and well-loved. I am so grateful that he has been a part of my life; his stories, his humour, his love for his work, he is the greatest person i have ever met in the music business. He made me feel appreciated, understood and welcome, when I was a kid confused with so much to do growing up. “

Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar added a comment on Flea’s Instagram, “Signed for some of the greatest artists of all time with nothing but love and respect for Mo Austin… awesome post Flea .”

Ostin runs Warner Bros. from a brown wooden multi-story building, nicknamed the Ski Lodge, in Burbank. He has made it a haven for creativity, with artists regularly visiting and playing new music. “Rickie Lee Jones comes in with a guitar and plays about two and a half songs, it just takes one thing to tell she’s great.” Lenny WaronkerWarner Brothers vp of A&R, recall in 2019 Billboards oral history of the building before Warner Bros. moved to downtown Los Angeles. “I think it’s just Ted Templeman and myself. That’s a no-brainer. Van Dyke Parks came to my office before his first recording, when he was working with Brian Wilson. He has his stuff, and to me, it’s amazing, he’s sitting at the piano… even though it might be in the old building. Once Russ Titelman and I released my first Rickie Lee Jones record [in 1979], we had a meeting with her at Russ’s office, which was next to mine, and she had a new idea of ​​the arrangement for ‘Chuck E.’s in Love’, basically. is to slow down. It gave it a real attitude. “

After Jac HolzmanElektra Records became part of the Warner Bros.-Seven Arts company (after Warner Brothers Records and Atlantic Records), the founders of Ostin, Holzman and Atlantic Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun helped form WEA, the global distribution system that handles their releases and delivers in-house distribution.

Contemporary Ostin’s, Creative Director of Sony Music Entertainment Clive Davis, remember him as a fierce competitor, but more of a friend. “Mo Ostin is a one-of-a-kind person. And the company he presides over is completely unique in its very special management and, of course, the depth of art that has influenced contemporary music and culture very deeply and historically,” he said in a statement. declare. “Yes, he and I competed against each other for many years but my friendship with him extended to our own family and I will always cherish our very close relationship. “

Executives generations after Ostin are remembering him as an influential force. YouTube/Google Global Music Director Lyor Cohenwho served as president of Warner Music Group from 2004-2012 told Billboards, “The great news is that he has lived an incredible life. He is a great husband and father and lives a healthy musical life. My heart goes out to Michael and his family. Let’s celebrate his life by listening to the many artists he has supported. We should all be as lucky as Mo!! “

“Mo is a great mentor,” said Universal Music Group President/CEO Lucian Grainge in a statement. “He lives by a set of values ​​that have taught me a lot about business, how to be a leader, and about life. I have complete respect for him as CEO and family man. His gifted ‘nose’ is something of a legend, but he’s also an incredible connector with people; something is really missing in business — and the world — today. My deepest condolences to Michael and the entire family.”

“There will only be one Mo Ostin and we all stand on his shoulders and benefit from his incredible feats,” Merck Mercuriades co-founder Hipgnosis wrote on Instagram. “It is very difficult not to choose his Warner Records as the best record label of all time. Are from @sinatra arrive @neilyoungarchives An incredible man who has impacted the careers of so many legends. None of us today can touch his lapel. Love Michael and the Ostin family. “

Max Lousada, CEO of Warner Recorded Music added, “In an era where creative entrepreneurs are revered, we honor Mo Ostin as a pioneer who wrote rule books for others to follow. Warner Music Group and Warner Records would not exist without his passion, vision and intelligence. Not only did he help build one of the biggest music companies in the world, but he also inspired a culture driven by bravery and ingenuity. Dreaming of artists being who they really are and giving them the space and support to fully realize their uniqueness. We send our condolences to [Mo’s son] Michael and the whole Ostin family. Mo has been a legend, and he will be deeply missed.”

After retiring from Warner Bros., Ostin remained busy, including co-founding and running the music division of DreamWorks SKG from 1996-2004. He later served as an advisor and board member for the music schools at his alma mater, UCLA, as well as USC. In 2011, he donated $10 million to UCLA to build a new facility called the Evelyn and Mo Ostin Music Center.

Ostin’s wife, Evelyn, and his two sons, Randy and Kenny, before his death. He is survived by his son, Michael.

Perhaps the most fitting tribute to Ostin’s simple style comes from former Warner Brothers executive Stan Cornyn, who praised Ostin during the Rock Hall rollout for trusting the people he trusted hired to work their magic under him: “Mo is brilliant. So brilliant, he never told any of us how to do his job.”

Support for this story is provided by Dan Rys.

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