Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Shock and Sadness in the Music World: Andre Harrell, Founder of Uptown Records, Father of Modern R&B, Dies Suddenly at 59


There’s a lot of shock and much sadness over night as word of the death of Andre Harrell spreads. He was 59 years old.

Andre–one of the best dressed, most articulate and intelligent record men– came into the business working with Russell Simmons at the original DefJam Records. He spread his wings in the 90s and started Uptown Records, introducing Mary J. Blige, among other artists.

But what Harrell really did was launch Sean Puffy Combs before Combs started Bad Boy Records. It was just this past January in Los Angeles at Clive Davis’s pre Grammy dinner when Puffy gave his long speech and reminisced about Andre giving him his big break. I was sitting just a few feet from Andre, and he overwhelmed by Puffy’s stories. This is much too soon.

In the mid 90s, Andre ran Motown Records, where he gave us BoyzIIMen, Johnny Gill, and many other hit acts. I can only say that in the late 80s and early 90s the only name you heard over and over was Andre Harrell. He was like the Berry Gordy of hip hop. Launching Puffy made Andre Harrell a legend literally in his own time.

More recently he’d been working for Combs on his Revolt TV project.

Yesterday, he wrote on Instagram: “Skip the virus and Let’s Pick it up again at the top of the year.” Cause of death is not confirmed but many social media accounts are saying it was a heart attack.

You can read an excellent Q&A with Andre here from 2016.   

Andre leaves his wife, choreographer to the stars Laurieann Gibson, and their son. Condolences to Andre’s friends and family, particularly Sean Combs, who’s now lost the mother of his children, Kim Porter, and his best friend, at relatively young ages. Just terrible.


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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