Sunday, April 14, 2024

RIP Mo Ostin, 95, Gave Us Jimi Hendrix, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, The Doobie Brothers, Prince: Clive Davis Recalls Their Long Friendship


Mo Ostin is one of those people who are on the Mount Rushmore of Rock and Roll along with Ahmet Ertegun, Clive Davis, Seymour Stein. He died today at age 95 with an enormous legacy.

Ostin basically invented what was Warner Bros. Records, eventually turning that into Warner-Elektra-Atlantic or WEA as it became known, the home to hundreds of successful recording artists and many great labels.

In the late 60s, all through the 70s and into the 90s, Warner Bros. Records was a towering giant. More than half of anyone’s record collection would be full of Warner labels on albums by Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, the Doobie Brothers, George Benson, Prince not to mention Mo’s early signing, Jimi Hendrix, plus Neil Young and Frank Sinatra whose Reprise Records he founded eventually merged with Warners in 1967. He would serve two years running Warner/Reprise and then become head of the vast WEA until 1994.

Ostin also brought in under the umbrella Elektra Records, gaining acts like Carly Simon, Bread, the Doors, and so on. In 1967, Atlantic Records was purchased by Warner’s owner, Steve Ross, and a dynasty was born.

Under Mo there were also a slew of great producers like Lenny Waronker, Russ Titelman, Ted Templeman, and Tommy Lipuma, among others.

When WEA was sold to Edgar Bronfman Jr. — who killed it — Ostin decamped to start Dreamworks SKG Records under Spielberg, Katzenberg, and Geffen. He was considered a king in the music business, beloved (and probably feared in some quarters). But during those halcyon Warners days, it’s hard to imagine another greater entity.

Did I mention that Ostin also brought in Seymour Stein’s Sire Records, which gave birth to Madonna, the Ramones, Talking Heads, Pretenders, and so on?

Mo Ostin was a gentleman and a scholar of music. He will be forever missed. Condolences to his family.

Clive Davis posted this to Facebook:

“Mo Ostin was one of a kind. The company he chaired was truly unique in its very special management of artists and the extraordinary depth and range of talent on its roster. Mo’s artists deeply impacted contemporary music and culture profoundly and historically. Yes, he and I competed with each other for many years but my friendship with him was very deep and extended to our respective families. I will always cherish our very close relationship.”

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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