Mo Ostin, the legendary label executive who led Warner Brothers Records through a storied time of both artistic and commercial success for more than 30 years, died in his sleep July 31, at the age of 95.
Ostin, who signed and/or worked with such acts at The Kinks, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, R.E.M., Randy Newman and many more, was “one of the greatest record men of all time, and a prime architect of the modern music business,” said Tom Corson, co-chairman and COO, Warner Records, and Aaron Bay-Schuck, co-chairman and CEO, Warner Records, in a joint statement.
Ostin, who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 and who received a Trustees Award from the Recording Academy in 2017, was born Morris Meyer Ostrofsky in New York and moved to Los Angeles, attending Fairfax High School and UCLA. After starting his career at Verve Records, Ostin was recruited by Frank Sinatra to run his Reprise Records in 1960. Three years later, Warner Bros. Records bought Reprise and Ostin quickly captured the pop zeitgeist, signing The Kinks. Quickly thereafter, he brought Hendrix, Mitchell and Neil Young to the label.
Ostin became president of Warner Bros. Records in 1970, presiding over the Warner and Reprise imprints until he retired as chairman/CEO in 1994. With an artist-first mentality, the labels became the home to an astonishing range of artists over the next during his tenure, including Van Halen, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, the B-52s, Paul Simon, ZZ Top, George Benson, Don Henley, Tom Petty, Green Day, Van Dyke Parks, Dire Straits, Chaka Khan, and, famously, Prince, who signed with the label in 1977.