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ROBERT STIGWOOD,
1934-2016

Robert Stigwood, an enterprising producer, personal manager and label executive whose RSO Records was home to The Bee Gees and Eric Clapton during their 1970s comebacks, died 1/4 at the age of 81.

Stigwood, whose lifestyle image epitomized the lavishness of the Swinging London and disco eras, had his most impressive run in the 1970s working in music and film, producing “Saturday Night Fever” and Grease and releasing their multimillion-selling soundtracks as well.

Born in Adelaide, Australia, he moved to London and started a talent agency for actors and ventured into independent record production, bringing along a young associate, Joe Meek, who would shake up the production side of British pop music. After leasing office space to The Who's managers Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert in 1966, he became their booking agent and signed them to his Reaction Records. That led to him managing Cream.

Stigwood merged his company with Beatles manager Brian Epstein's NEMS in 1967. After Epstein died in 1967, The Beatles formed Apple Corps and Stigwood created the Robert Stigwood Organization and the RSO label. He started managing The Bee Gees, who would record in the 1960s and early 1970s for Atco.

Simultaneously, Stigwood produced musicals, bringing Hair, Oh! Calcutta! and Evita to London, Jesus Christ Superstar to Broadway and the adaptation of The Who's Tommy to film.

In 1973, RSO launched with the release of albums associated with members of Cream, including West, Bruce & Laing's Why Dontcha and Derek and the Dominos' In Concert. The label struck gold in '74 with Clapton's comeback album 461 Ocean Boulevard, which yielded the hit “I Shot the Sheriff.” Bee Gees hits such as “Jive Talkin',” “How Deep is Your Love” and “Night Fever” plus Andy Gibb's “Shadow Dancing” would follow.

Stigwood's fall came in 1978 with film version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that flopped miserably, as did Moment by Moment with John Travolta and Lily Tomlin. His other rock-inspired film, Times Square, only pulled in $1.4 million in 1980. Sequels to Saturday Night Fever and Grease also underperformed.

RSO's bigger hits in the 1980s were soundtracks to The Empire Strikes Back and Fame, though the label eventually became part of PolyGram, which is now in the Universal Music Group family. 

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