A moment to note the recent passing of Don Grierson, who as an A+R record exec signed Celine Dion, and worked closely with The Beatles, The Jacksons, Tina Turner, Heart, Bob Seger, Gloria Estefan, and Cyndi Lauper over a 50 year career. He died recently in Los Angeles at age 77. He was honored during Sunday’s Grammy Awards.
Brit-born Grierson grew up in Australia and got a DJ job at 18 at a small station, where he was also Music Director. He moved to LA and after working in a record store got a job as promotions manager for a small label. A job at Capitol Records followed and there he was was instrumental in promoting The Beatles’ first four Apple Records singles. The band presented Grierson with the only Golden Apple Award ever awarded by the group. The award was presented personally by George Harrison in a ceremony on October 31, 1968. From 1970-1974 Grierson was the West Coast A&R Coordinator for RCA Records and in 1978 he became vice president of the Capitol spinoff label EMI America where he worked with artists such as Sheena Easton, Kim Carnes, Kate Bush, Sir Cliff Richard, J. Geils Band, and Kenny Rogers. He later headed A+R for Capitol in the early ’80s and the platinum artists he signed or guided included Heart, Tina Turner, Duran Duran, Bob Seger, Joe Cocker, Anne Murray, Steve Vai, Megadeth, The Motels, Thomas Dolby, Billy Squier, George Clinton, Crowded House, and Poison.
Later that decade, Grierson moved to New York to become Senior Vice President, Head of A&R for Epic Records. Artists he worked with included Celine Dion, Cheap Trick, Bad English, Gloria Estefan, Cyndi Lauper, The Jacksons, Living Colour, Allman Brothers Band, Alice Cooper, Social Distortion, Firehouse, and Joe Satriani. He also supervised soundtracks for the label, including Steven Spielberg’s Hook, Barry Levinson’s Bugsy, Tap, Queens Logic, and Iron Eagle. In the early ’90s he co-funded Drive Entertainment and re-packaged, re-mastered and created liner notes for more than 140 albums by such artists as Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Coleman Hawkins, and Charlie Parker.
For the past twenty-five years, Grierson has served as a music consultant to a number of prominent artists and major companies while also teaching at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. In 2009, he co-authored It All Begins with the Music. Once asked about the changes he had witnessed during his fifty-year music career, Grierson explained, “There will always be a market for music. People will always have music in their lives. It has been that way since the beginning of time. The challenge, from an industry point of view, is always to identify artists that can connect with an audience.”
Grierson is survived by his wife Deborah, his daughter Nicole, and a brother, Barry.
In lieu of sending flowers a donation could be made in Don’s honor to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital or Make-A-Wish Foundation.
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