(DJ Liza Richardson dedicated her Saturday show to music mogul Gil Friesen. You can hear it here and read more below.)
Gil Friesen is a great man I feel lucky to have known. Aged 75, he passed away on Thursday after heroically fighting a battle with leukemia. As president and partner of the legendary independent record label A&M, he was considered the ampersand in A&M (which stands for Alpert and Moss). He helped to launch or sustain the careers of:
Sting / The Police
Flying Burrito Bros
Cheech & Chong
Baha Marimba Band
Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass
…….the list goes on for miles.
He was a filmmaker too, producing the The Breakfast Club and, most recently, a documentary which will premiere on the opening night at Sundance in January. “Twenty Feet From Stardom” is the untold story of backup singers in popular music who have brought shape and style to the soundtracks of our lives. I played a song from the film, “Walk On The Wild Side” by Lou Reed.
Gil was a passionate art collector, studied classical literature, read all three papers every day, practiced yoga and took guitar lessons. He was a man of remarkable intellectual curiosity and legendary style. When I was reading his Rolling Stone obituary today I learned that he drove the taxi in Herb Alpert’s “Tijuana Taxi” video and dated the whipped cream girl!
He was a great philanthropist, giving generously to The Painted Turtle, Sting’s Rainforest Foundation, MOCA, NRDC and KCRW, often calling-in multiple times during a pledge drive to give large donations on different shows. An avid listener, Gil goes way back with KCRW. In the early 90’s, A&M tapped Tom Schnabel to head their world music venture, Horizon Records.
Married to my dearest pal Janet for the past 10 years or so, I’ve been lucky to hang out with Gil and, at his insistence, have made him many, many mix CDs.
One of the things I learned from him is work smart not hard — which has become my mantra.
His friends all loved and admired him deeply. He will be missed but his legacy and spirit will live in our hearts forever.
By the way, it was easy to do a show inspired by Gil Friesen because he was such a genuine music lover — pretty much anything I’d play, he’d appreciate on some level .
- Liza Richardson