Monday, May 27, 2024

Pierre Cossette, the Great Grammy Producer, Dies at 85


Just a few words about the great Grammy Awards producer Pierre Cossette. He passed away on Friday at age 85. Pierre was one of the great showmen, a true legend, and a feisty producer. He produced the Grammy show for 30 years, bringing it into the modern era. A French Canadian with a real flare for understanding what worked on TV and how it translated to the audience, Pierre managed to combine rock and pop with opera, classical music, jazz and every other genre. He loved it all, especially country music. He won a Tony Award for his Broadway musical, “The Will Rogers Follies.”

A few years ago, when the Grammys were in New York, I was in the production truck with Pierre during the show. He got a call that Luciano Pavarotti, who was in Radio City Music Hall, would not perform “Nessum Dorma” with Aretha Franklin an planned. Pierre dropped the phone and ran upstairs to the opera great’s dressing room. The show was on already, a live broadcast. But Pavarotti refused. It was Pierre who convinced Aretha Franklin to sing both the English and Italian parts of the song. He sent Sting out on stage to say that Pavarotti could not be there that night ‘ he was upstairs! But Aretha went on, sang the whole thing, and “Nessum Dorma” wound up becoming a huge part of her repetoire. The audience never knew what happened.

We’ve lost a lot of great people in the last few weeks, all in their 80s, but vibrant as ever: Dominick Dunne, Army Archerd, Walter Cronkite (92), the great writer Larry Gelbart ‘ who wrote the MASH TV series and many great plays. They will never be replaced. And now Pierre. I hope they’re all together, having a fantastic time!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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