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TONY MARTELL,
1926-2016

Tony Martell, a storied music exec and philanthropist whose T.J. Martell Foundation raised hundreds of millions for research to fight an array of deadly diseases, died at his home in Madison, N.J., on Sunday night. He was 90.

Martell was an A&R exec and ultimately label head (serving primarily at Epic and CBS Records) during the course of a career that stretched from the ’60s to the ’90s. He played a vital role in the careers of the Isley Brothers, the O’Jays, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ozzy Osbourne, ELO and countless other artists. He earned an Exec Producer credit on countless albums.

After the death of his teenage son, T.J., of leukemia in 1975, Martell launched the foundation—based on a promise he made to T.J. that he would help find a cure for such dread diseases—which became one of the most powerful institutions in funding research into cancer, leukemia and AIDS. The first fundraiser, at Buddy Rich’s club in NYC, featured Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Ella Fitzgerald. The organization’s star-studded galas quickly became a staple of the industry’s event calendar; the Martell Foundation, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, has raised more than $270 million.

Martell is survived by his daughter, Debbie Martell. Memorial plans are slated to be announced soon.

To support the work of the T.J. Martell Foundation, go here.

"The Music Business Association is extremely saddened by the passing of Tony Martell, one of the industry’s most esteemed and beloved leaders and philanthropists," reads a quote from Music Biz topper James Donio, whose org gave Martell the Harry Chapin Memorial Humanitarian Award earlier this year. "Tony had a very successful label career working with many outstanding artists, and was a longtime friend and supporter of Music Biz and NARM." But Martell's philanthropic efforts, Donio adds, "will forever be his legacy," noting, "No one was more passionate or driven than Tony."

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