THE MANAGER: Remembering Elliot Roberts

The Asylum Records co-founder and guiding light for Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and others was 76

Elliot Roberts hangs in the background while CSNY talk shop

In terms of rock ‘n’ roll managers, there’s a ton of iconic names in the game: Peter Grant, Brian Epstein, Doc McGhee, Malcolm MacClaren, Paul McGuinness. But none of those men had the scope and reach of Elliot Roberts, who died yesterday at the age of 76.

He is known for guiding the careers of such iconic figures in American rock like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, CSNY, Jackson Browne, The Eagles, Tom Petty, Tracy Chapman, DEVO, Judee Sill, Spiritualized, Mazzy Star and even Devendra Banhart believe it or not. In 1971, he co-founded Asylum Records with David Geffen, a label who fostered the robust singer-songwriter movement of the 1970s before switching gears to metal and hip-hop in the 80s, releasing albums by the likes of Metallica, Metal Church, the Geto Boys and Paul Wall among many others.

However, Elliot’s most supreme clientele was Neil Young, who he began working with at the birth of the Canadian guitarist’s career in 1967 and stayed with him right until his dying day. As I wrote the other night on Facebook, my heart indeed hurts for old Neil, having to deal with so much loss in recent years with the passing of his ex-wife and mother of his children Pegi Young, longtime sidemen Ben Keith and Rick Rosas and filmmaker friend Jonathan Demme. To lose Elliot Roberts, for him, surely is like losing a blood brother, and our deepest condolences go out to Neil and everyone who he left behind.

“The day I left Warner Bros. Records in 2006, Elliot Roberts called and asked if I wanted to come work for him and Neil Young” Bill Bentley, who was Young’s longtime publicist at Reprise Records, wrote on his Facebook wall. “I asked what he wanted me to do, and he said, ‘Who knows? We’ll find something.’ Elliot knew that in the music business the worse thing you can be is unemployed. Three days later I went to work at Lookout Management. He was the best friend you could ever ask for. And as Neil once told me, “In reality, I manage Elliot.” Neil wasn’t completely kidding. There was never anyone like Elliot before him, and there surely will never be another one after. Whip smart and funnier than anyone else.
I told him ten years ago I wanted to write his biography. He just laughed and said there was no way he could tell all the stories. Then I said I had a title for it: THE MANAGER. He stopped, got a big smile on his face and said, “Oooh. That’s good.” I thought I had him. But then he just shook his head and said no.
His loyalty to his artists was unmovable. He taught me that and so very much more. A month ago I was invited out to his home-office. We sat on the big couches and talked, and just shared some sweet time together. And then we hugged, I told him I loved him and left. In Elliot’s sometimes subtle way maybe he was saying goodbye. Or maybe he just wanted to share some memories and laughs. Driving away I felt like the luckiest man in the world to be his friend and share all those years. I used to call him The ER, because things were ALWAYS happening in the world of Mr. Roberts.”

The Rock & Roll Globe pays homage to Elliot Roberts with this YouTube mix of our favorite deep Neil treasures online. Thank you for everything.


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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

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