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.
Why Andre 😢😢😢 My heart is breaking and I can't stop crying. He was an amazing friend and I will miss him forever. 😢
— Mariah Carey (@MariahCarey) May 9, 2020