Smith, who signed the Grateful Dead, oversaw Warner Bros., Elektra/Asylum and Capitol-EMI
Joe Smith, a legendary record executive who signed the Grateful Dead and helmed three labels, including as president and CEO of Capitol-EMI Music, has died. He was 91. His son confirmed his death to Billboard.
Smith, who received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015, worked closely with a number of artists, including Bonnie Raitt, whom he signed while president at Warner Bros in the ‘70s and then brought to Capitol and was part of her comeback with Nick of Time in the late ‘80s.
Following his time at Warner Bros., he became chairman of Elektra/Asylum Records in 1975 for eight years.
After taking a break from music labels, he was named president/CEO of Capitol-EMI, until his retirement in 1983.
Smith retired from Capitol-EMI in 1993, telling The Los Angeles Times that the family atmosphere that had dominated his decades in the industry had been replaced by a corporate, business-first mentality. “Fifteen years ago we might have blithely gone ahead and done what we thought was right musically. Today there are bound to be some business considerations applied, and to an extent that hurts music because you don’t know what you’re missing…I see companies having meeting after meeting discussing long-range planning and strategy without the same kind of conclaves on where the music is going, where is it coming from and what should we be looking for.”
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