Home >News >World >Bhaskar Menon, music biz legend, dies at 86

He was associated with some of the biggest names in the music business, from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd to David Bowie, Tina Turner and Freddie Mercury, in a career spanning over four decades. But few in India know of Bhaskar Menon, the music industry legend.

Menon, who led some of the world’s largest music labels, died on 4 March in Beverly Hills, California. He was 86.

It was as president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Capitol Records that Menon engineered his biggest achievement: a huge campaign to promote Pink Floyd’s seminal 1973 album, The Dark Side of the Moon. The band had yet to crack the US market, but Menon’s efforts brought the desired results, with the iconic prog-rock album becoming a massive critical and commercial success there.

In an interview with Mint Lounge in 2013, Menon said: “I was overwhelmed by the power of the compositions, combined with the dramatic strength of the work in ‘live’ performance—which I still am today more than four decades later! It was an experience that I can only compare to hearing for the first time my dear friend and mentor George Martin’s productions of The Beatles’ White Album and of Sgt Pepper."

“From the time we released The Dark Side of the Moon album in March 1973, each of us who was closely involved with the project at Capitol in North America and at EMI in the UK and elsewhere, were pretty intuitively certain that we were unlikely to ever encounter a comparably stunning experience again soon in our professional careers."

Menon was born in 1934 in Thiruvananthapuram. He attended The Doon School, Dehradun, and Christ Church, Oxford, after which he joined EMI. He came to notice as chairman of the label’s Indian subsidiary, Gramophone Company of India.

His appointment as CEO of Capitol Records and, later, CEO of EMI Worldwide, at a time of minimal Asian presence in big music companies, helped break the glass ceiling.

He became instrumental in organizing the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh with Ravi Shankar and George Harrison, a pioneering humanitarian event that has spawned other charity rock concerts.

Menon was known for working closely with some of the biggest stars in the music business, saying in an interview that “this is a field where you have to be a bridge between talent and commercialism".

“You have to get very close to the artist, have to know everything about him and deal on a totally personal level. Like when John Lennon died, I was in London. I caught the first Concorde out to New York to meet Yoko (his widow, Yoko Ono), spent some time with her before I left for India and my holiday."

Menon was president of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and director of the American Recording Industry Association for nearly two decades. He was honoured as a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 1990.

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