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"Over the years, [Rich] has become a good friend, and in an industry that abounds with hustlers and faceless corporate entities, he stands out as a decent, honest man who has a passion for music. I wish there were more like him."
——Eric Clapton
RICH FITZGERALD,
FEB. 23, 1947 - AUG. 15, 2011
The following biography was written by Rich’s friend and fellow WBR “lifer” Bob Merlis.
Music industry veteran Rich Fitzgerald died earlier this week at his home in Los Angeles after a battle with cancer. Fitzgerald, who was 64, is survived by Mary, his wife of 24 years; Hunter, his 22 year-old son; and a daughter, Sloane, aged 20.  

Fitzgerald was born in San Francisco, but his family soon moved to Seattle where, as a child, he compiled his own hit charts. After service in the Air Force, he began his music business career stocking orders for a local Seattle one-stop distributor. In the early 1970s, he did local radio promotion for Capitol Records and moved to Los Angles in 1976 to head national promotion for Robert Stigwood’s RSO label, then starting up. During his four-year stint with RSO, Rich developed and ran record breaking campaigns on behalf of the label’s roster that included the BeeGees, Eric Clapton, Yvonne Elliman, Andy Gibb, Irene Cara and the soundtracks to Saturday Night Fever, Grease and Fame. When RSO President Al Coury founded Network Records, Rich moved to the Elektra-distributed label but shortly thereafter was recruited to help establish fledgling Geffen Records. As Warner Bros. then distributed Geffen releases, he soon caught the attention of promotion executives there and, in 1983, was named Vice President of Promotion for Warner Bros. while still responsible for Geffen releases. 

At Warner Bros, Rich played a critical role behind launching hits for Madonna, Prince, ZZ Top, Dire Straits, The Pretenders, Fleetwood Mac, Chicago, Neil Young, Rod Stewart, Talking Heads, Paul Simon and The B-52’s. Eric Clapton, with whom he had worked at RSO, had switched over to Warner Bros., and the friendship between the two remained a constant until the end of Rich's life. 

In 1987, Warner Bros reactivated its dormant Reprise Records, with Rich heading the effort as the label’s Vice President. In short order, Reprise developed into a powerhouse, with a number of Warner label artists joining the Reprise roster. These included Chicago, Chris Isaak, Randy Newman, The Bodeans and Depeche Mode, joined by new signings Green Day, Alanis Morissette, Barenaked Ladies and Enya. Eric Clapton was one of the linchpins of the return of Reprise, as was, of course, Rich Fitzgerald. 

In recent years, Rich had been semi-retired, devoting his time to his family, friends and his golf game, though he continued to work as a consultant to Clapton. In 2007’s Clapton: The Autobiography, the author wrote, "Over the years, [he] has become a good friend, and in an industry that abounds with hustlers and faceless corporate entities, he stands out as a decent, honest man who has a passion for music. I wish there were more like him." 

A service in memory of Rich Fitzgerald will be held at St. Jude Catholic Church, 32032 West Lindero Canyon Rd., Westlake Village, CA 91361 this Friday, Aug. 19, at 2 p.m. 

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