When interviewing report executives throughout my three a long time as pop critic for The Occasions, I seen that they had been as longing for publicity as any of their artists. And, I have to confess, I appreciated it after they invariably stated, “Call me anytime.” So, it was irritating when crucial and revered report firm president on the town didn’t fall into that sample.
The frustration elevated over time as one Warner Bros. artist after one other gushed about how a lot they adored Mo Ostin — together with such Rock and Roll Corridor of Fame members as Neil Younger, Paul Simon, Fleetwood Mac, Randy Newman, Madonna, James Taylor and Tom Petty.
Over time, I got here to share their respect and affection for the person Frank Sinatra trusted within the early Sixties with the accountability of operating his new report firm, Reprise, which quickly grew to become a part of Warner Bros. Data. Sinatra began the label as a result of he was disgruntled with executives at different labels and he wished an organization that put artists first. Instinctively, he sensed Ostin, a former bookkeeper at Verve Data in Los Angeles, might obtain that aim.
For nearly 4 a long time on the famed Warner Bros. places of work in Burbank, Ostin, who died on Sunday on the age of 95, lived as much as Sinatra’s belief, placing him excessive on the brief record of towering U.S. label heads that features the likes of Clive Davis, Ahmet Ertegun, David Geffen, Berry Gordy, Jimmy Iovine and Jerry Moss.
“It’s the end of an era, no question,” stated Irving Azoff, the celebrity supervisor who has guided the careers of such artists because the Eagles and Steely Dan. “Having the benefit of watching the record business change now for 50 years, I would unequivocally say I learned more from Mo than anyone else in the record business. More than anybody. he taught me how to respect artists, trust artists, and stay out of the creative process.”
Two members of Fleetwood Mac, whose ’70s blockbusters had been quintessential Warners albums in addition to rock ’n’ roll landmarks, instructed The Occasions by way of e-mail about their affection and respect for Ostin.
“I have a crystal-clear memory of Fleetwood Mac walking in the front door of the Warner Bros. offices in 1975 and I can honestly say that my world changed instantly,” singer Stevie Nicks stated. “Mo was loving and nurturing and had excellent musical taste, with boundless ideas and vision. He listened to artists and always put them first.”
“I looked to him as a friend first, who helped guide me and Fleetwood Mac into a place where we, like many others, were free to develop our music and have our creative needs met with wisdom and open arms,” added drummer Mick Fleetwood.
“I loved Mo,” Geffen stated by way of e-mail. “He was an important part of my life. I was honored that he joined with Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and me to build DreamWorks. We will not see his likes again in the music business.”
Ostin was sensible, stylish and constant. He selected staff with the identical care that he signed artists, a number of of whom went on to turn out to be heads of labels, most notably Lenny Waronker, who was at Mo’s facet at Warners and later at DreamWorks Data, the place the pair signed such critically acclaimed newcomers as Elliot Smith and Rufus Wainwright in addition to revered veterans, together with George Michael and Randy Newman.
“I was fortunate to work with Mo for nearly four decades,” Waronker stated Monday. “He was a phenomenal music man and a strong supporter of artists’ rights, but what I treasured most about Mo was his absolute fairness and his way of making everyone around him feel like part of his family. He made us all better.”
Newman, who was signed by Ostin in 1967, added, “I loved him. He was a great man.”
For many years, my admiration of Mo remained at a distance. In conversations, at live performance receptions, he was unfailingly well mannered, but in addition unalterably off the report. At any time when I’d ask for a quote, he’d smile and level throughout the room to one in every of his artists. He didn’t change that coverage till he determined to depart Warner Bros. in 1994 after a dispute with the brand new company homeowners of the label.
When The Occasions’ Chuck Philips and I contacted his workplace, we had been delighted when Mo stated he would sit down with us for what was his solely formal interview on the label. He wished to offer his facet of the Warner Bros. story. He was drained, he stated, of the “revisionism” that had been circulating within the business, nameless criticisms within the media that Warners had fallen behind the instances, feedback he felt had been unfold by the company powers in New York.
The interview began with Ostin recalling Sinatra’s early targets.
“Frank’s whole idea was to create an environment which both artistically and economically would be more attractive for the artist than anybody else had to offer,” he stated. “That wasn’t how it was anywhere else. You had financial guys, lawyers, marketing guys. Their priorities may not have been the music. One of the great things about Warners, I always felt, was our emphasis and priority was always about the music.”
Ostin helped steer Warner/Reprise right into a powerhouse that was the envy of the report world. Within the course of, Warners introduced credibility to Los Angeles at a time when it was thought-about a minor participant within the business, main the way in which for the westward tilt of the music enterprise from New York to Los Angeles.
As phrase leaked out in current months about Ostin’s failing well being, among the traditional Warners artists stopped by his dwelling in Pacific Palisades for temporary visits, together with Simon, who jumped within the early Eighties from rival New York-based Columbia Data to Warners due to his religion in Ostin. After two coolly obtained information for Ostin and Warners, that religion was rewarded in 1986 when Simon launched the groundbreaking “Graceland,” which gained album of the 12 months on the Grammys and have become his best-ever-selling solo LP.
“Absolutely the nicest guy,” Simon stated of Ostin. “One of the great record executives and my dear, dear friend. He lived a good, long life, but I would have enjoyed another 10, 20 years of Mo.”
Robert Hilburn was pop music critic for The Occasions from 1970 to 2005.