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Jerry Heller, Manager of Marvin Gaye And N.W.A. Dead At 75

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Jerry Heller, the trailblazing music manager who commandeered the careers of everyone from Marvin Gaye to The Who to N.W.A. has died.

He was 75.

Heller suffered a heart attack while driving which resulted in a traffic collision.

He was later pronounced dead at a hospital in Thousand Oaks.

Heller may be known in contemporary terms for managing N.W.A. but his career spans back all the way to the 1960’s.

The Cleveland-born Heller graduated from USC and hit the ground running, opening his own Beverly Hills artist agency (The Heller-Fischel Agency) in 1964. An immediate success, the agency represented The Who, Black Sabbath and Humble Pie, as well as repping nascent writers like Van Morrison and Cat Stevens.

Heller’s philosophy was to send his acts out on the road with other acts from other agencies–a notion that was anathema to what most other agencies did at the time, which was send their acts out together, no matter how disparate their sounds were. Heller never subscribed to the idea that two very different sounding artists from two entirely different genres should be grouped together just to preserve agency consistency. He also found the strategy to be a greedy one and one that would only benefit in the short-term.

And he was right.

His strategy worked perfectly and suddenly his artists found themselves reaching wider audiences on larger scales.

Heller’s six-decade long tenure in the music business–including his later career with West CoastĀ Rap–was wildly successful and controversial. Heller’s 2006 autobiography addressed the various controversies that he had been up to that point fairly silent about. Those controversies involved Israeli guards, Dr. Dre’s beating of singer Dee Barnes, his co-founding of Ruthless Records, Eazy E’s planned hit on Suge Knight, the F.B.I. and Ice Cube’s alleged anti-semitism.

It’s quite a read.

Heller, who was played by Paul Giamiatti in Straight Outta Compton, was not pleased with his depiction and sued Universal for defamation to the tune of $110 million dollars.