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HERB ROSEN,
1931-2021

New York promotion man Herb Rosen, a mentor to many in the promo business during his 50-year career, died on 4/7. He was 89.

When he retired in 2006, he estimated he'd worked about 1,500 records, around 200 of which went gold.

Among the hits he scored as an independent between 1965 and 2006 were “Sunday Will Never Be the Same” by Spanky and Our Gang,” “Sunny” by Bobby Hebb, Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and Alicia Bridges’ “I Love the Nightlife.”

Rosen left a job as a singles buyer at a Manhattan record store to join Roulette Records’ promotion department in 1958. Told to get records on MCA, WABC and WINS, he helped break songs by Frankie Lymon, Jimmie Rogers and Buddy Knox.

Jerry Wexler then hired him at Atlantic, where he worked Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash” and “Dream Lover.” That caught the attention of Mercury Records, where Rosen went to work for Quincy Jones on records by Dinah Washington (his favorite singer), Sarah Vaughn, Brook Benton and Michel Legrand.

Rosen was tone-deaf but sold Jones on his ability to detect a potential hit record.

In HITS’ The History of the Music Business, Volume 2, Rosen told Michael Sigman: “Quincy came into the office after a trip to Europe and threw a load of LPs on my desk. He said, ‘Listen to every one of ’em and tell me which ones you think would make it here.’ I couldn’t believe what a pile of shit that was, but there was one cut that made me laugh hysterically, so I made acetates and took them to the morning guys at the three big pop radio stations, Joe O’Brien (WMCA), Jack Lacy (WINS) and Herb Oscar Anderson (WABC). I told them it was by a French girl I was seeing and I wanted to impress her. They all played the record and within a week and a half it sold over a million. The pressing plant couldn’t keep up with the orders.”

“Dominique” by The Singing Nun proceeded to top the charts. “It was the first time I had my picture in the trades getting an award," Rosen revealed.

After leaving Mercury, he spent three years at Kapp before going indie in 1965.

As he told Sigman, “It wasn’t a job; it was a love affair. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to go to work. Every day was exciting and different. But you can’t exist if you can’t take rejection, because for every hundred records that come out, only one or two make it. If you get turned down and if you feel you have a case, you have to go back again and again.”

 

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