For Immediate Release
May 28, 2018
Known for creating superstars, Elton John, Olivia Newton John, Neil Diamond, Barry White and the Alan Parsons Project, Regan had number one records in each of four decades.
Glendale, CA―The man who gave Frank Sinatra his song, “That’s Life,” brought Elton John to America, launched the careers of Neil Diamond, Olivia Newton John and Barry White, has died at the age of 89.
There’s no doubt that Russ Regan, born Harold Rustigian, is a music industry legend. He is one of only a few record executives in the world to have enjoyed number one records in each of four decades (1960s-1990’s). During Russ’s illustrious career, he helmed Uni Records, 20th Century Records and Polygram Records, each during the apex of their existence; a tribute to his leadership. Indeed, Russ signed, developed and played a major role in the careers of some of the biggest names recorded music has ever known, such as Elton John, Olivia Newton John, Neil Diamond, Barry White, the Alan Parsons Project and many, many more.
Surprisingly, while at Uni, Russ saw platinum in Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints” as well as gold with South African trumpeter Hugh Masakela, who’s 1968 “Grazing In The Grass” sold over a million records, reaching the top spot on Billboard’s pop chart. An unknown Los Angeles band calling themselves The Pendeltons had just recorded a song called “Surfin.” Russ felt the name didn’t fit their sound, prompting him to suggest a change to none other than “The Beach Boys.” Consequently, even the surfers from Hawthorne have Regan to thank for their iconic careers. Few realize that Russ actually brought “That’s Life,” to Frank Sinatra, resulting in the now legendary 1966 hit. From Frank Sinatra to Elton John, with a side trip through The Beach Boys, Russ Regan truly was the original music man!
Russ began his career in record promotion for Motown Records. One of his first projects was the newly minted label’s first Billboard Hot 100 number one hit and number one R&B record, “Please Mr. Postman,” by The Marvelettes, in 1961. Russ would go on to promote songs by the likes of The Supremes, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations and Marvin Gaye, to name but a few.
Along the way, Russ’s successes include the signing of Ambrosia and Barry White to 20th Century Records, and promoting countless others. The collective musical recordings Russ championed over the years have achieved sales of more than a billion units worldwide.
Russ’s career highlights include the silver screen, having supervised classic motion picture soundtracks, such as Endless Love, Breakin’, The Karate Kid, All The Right Moves, Love At First Bite, This Is Spinal Tap and A Chorus Line. As a music supervisor, Russ counted among his achievements four Academy Award winning songs from the films: The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, Flashdance and Chariots of Fire.
There can be no doubt that Russ Regan was an industry icon, whose accomplishments remain unparalleled.
Quotes from those who knew Russ:
Upon learning of Russ’s passing, Bernie Taupin stated “He was larger than life; a big-hearted maverick, whose belief in us was a key component to our success in America.”
Olivia Newton John commented about Russ’s passing that “he encouraged me to move to America, which began my career. He was a very good man!”
Famed Los Angeles Times music editor (1970 to 2005) and best-selling author, Robert Hilburn, commented: “Russ Regan had a wonderful ear for and genuine love of great talent, playing essential roles in the career development of such major artists as Elton John and Bernie Taupin, and Neil Diamond. He was also distinguished by a warm, gracious manner that was built on both deep-rooted humanity and integrity.”
Smokey Robinson simply says to Russ: “Thank you for your friendship and your love.”
When told of Russ’s passing, Neil Diamond stated “Russ Regan was there for me from the beginning at Uni Records and he knew a hit record when he heard it;.’Sweet Caroline’, ‘Cracklin’ Rosie’, ‘I Am.. I Said’ and ‘Holly Holy’ are just a few of the hits Russ released during my time there. Russ was always on the artist’s side and would come into the studio while I was recording and his face would light up when he knew he heard a hit song. He made me and a new guy that he signed after me, Elton John worldwide superstars.
Russ was a great guy all around. This is a sad loss for the music industry and the end of an era. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.”
Russ’s career encompassed so many superstars and hit records that a documentary detailing his life and times is presently in production, which is apropos, as it’s literally impossible to encapsulate so much success in a single writing.
Russ passed away peacefully Sunday evening at his home in Palm Springs, surrounded by family. He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Sheryl, children Marc, Rachael and Daniel, sister Margaret and son-in-law Eric. He was predeceased by his brother Ray and sister Carol. Arrangements are pending, and family asks that in lieu of flowers, consideration be given in Russ’s name to his favorite charity, The Recording Academy’s MusiCares. https://www.grammy.com/musicares.
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