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Gil was an artist at getting people’s attention.
GIL FRIESEN, 1937-2012
One of the Unsung Great Record Execs, Gil Did Everything With Smarts and Style
Legendary music executive Gil Friesen died today at his home in Brentwood following a prolonged and valiant battle with leukemia. During his 27 years at A&M Records, the bright, droll and casually imposing Friesen exemplified the label’s sophisticated style and consummate taste every bit as much as did label founders Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss. Indeed, he’s been described—accurately and fittingly—as the ampersand in A&M.

A Pasadena native, Gil was there from the start, arriving at the fledgling label as its second paid employee after breaking into the biz in the Capitol mailroom before doing a stint in promotion and trying his hand at management with P.J. Proby. During A&M’s first decade, he was instrumental in the company’s transformation from a tiny operation situated in Alpert’s garage into the largest indie label in the U.S.—a company that was the envy of the industry and a magnet for artists after the word got out that A&M treated every act with the utmost caring and respect.

First as GM and subsequently as President and partner, Friesen was responsible for A&M’s day-to-day operations, working closely with Moss while forming strong and lasting relationships with a handpicked executive staff and an eclectic array of roster acts, including The Carpenters, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Joe Cocker, Nils Lofgren, Supertramp, The Tubes, Peter Frampton, The Police, Squeeze, Joe Jackson, Bryan Adams and Janet Jackson. When Gil walked into a dressing room after a show to say hi, the atmosphere changed. He was a rock star himself, in a tastefully understated, amusingly self-deprecating way. And as a boss, he could get people’s attention as well. Gil was an artist at getting people’s attention.
 
He remained at A&M until 1990, after the label was acquired by PolyGram. At that point, Friesen was a;lready well into his successful second act, producing 10 films during the ’80s, including The Breakfast Club and Birdie. He also co-founded the Classic Sports Cable Network, which was sold to ESPN in 1997. That same year, he was named Chairman of the Aspen Design Conference, in recognition of his exquisite taste. A founding investor of Akamai, Friesen was also a Trustee and President of the Board of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), as well as a Trustee of the Painted Turtle Children's Hospital Camp.

Practically everyone who worked on the lot at 1416 No. La Brea during the glory years thinks of A&M as Camelot. And if Herb and Jerry were the label’s two King Arthurs, Gil was its Sir Lancelot. The fact that this year marks A&M's 50th anniversary renders his loss that much more poignant. 

Gil is survived by his wife Janet, his grown son Tyler, 7-year-old son Theo and 3-year-old daughter Uma.

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