On Friday morning in Los Angeles there will be a private funeral for Abe Somer. The 85 year old lawyer was at the red hot center of the record and music business. For better or worse, all the major deals were made by Abe Somer. He died on Wednesday in Los Angeles after a short illness.
Somer cut the deal with Atlantic Records’ Ahmet Ertegun that gave the Rolling Stones the biggest contract of all time in 1971. Two years prior, it was Somer who flew into the Woodstock music festival so his friend Jerry Moss — of A&M Records, who also died this week — could see Joe Cocker perform and sign him.
Clive Davis told me today that it was Somer who invited him to the Monterey Pop Festival in 1968. Davis famously signed Janis Joplin right after her performance. Davis told me, “I thought we were just going for fun to see Columbia artists like Simon & Garfunkel and Blood Sweat & Tears. The weekend changed my life forever.”
All these people remained close friends for decades. Somer worked for his entire career at the now 100 year old law firm, Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp, where he was head of the music department. Some of the acts he represented included the Beach Boys, the Mamas & the Papas, Neil Diamond, and the Doors. He was also best friends with Jack Nicholson and often represented him.
Somer was a gigantic success but had bumps in his career as well, including charges of sexual harassment in the early 1990s. But he was a beloved and loyal friend to dozens of artists and executives. He cut many deals for his friend, super producer Richard Perry, whose artists included Carly Simon, Ringo Starr, The Pointer Sisters, and Rod Stewart. He was also close friends with Moss, Herb Alpert, and Lou Adler, bringing Adler’s Ode Records to A&M and launching Carole King’s career with “Tapestry.” Earlier, when Adler had hits with the Mamas and the Papas at Dunhill Records, it was Somer who made it all happen.
How ‘in’ was Abe? Patti Boyd Harrison took a famous photo at his house in 1972 for the cover of George Harrison’s now classic album, “Living in the Material World.” The picture included Abe with Ringo Starr, Jim Horn, Klaus Voormann, George Harrison, Nicky Hopkins, Jim Keltner. When the album was released, it was used as the inside double gatefold.
The deaths in the last week of music industry giants already included Clarence Avant, Jerry Moss, and now Abe. Robbie Robertson died last week as well. We are slowly coming to the end of the greatest chapter in music history. equal to the great movie studio heads who made Hollywood. All the music we listen to is because of these people. Rest in peace, and condolences to Abe’s extended family — his wife, Annika, four children from three marriages– and all his friends. He will be sorely missed.