Bob Krasnow, Label Exec and Rock Hall of Fame Co-Founder, Dead at 82

"He was a brilliant man whose range of interests was as wide as anyone I've known," writes Nonesuch president Bob Hurwitz

Bob Krasnow, a longtime record label executive and co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, died Sunday. Credit: Michael Halsband

Bob Krasnow, a onetime record label exec and co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, died on Sunday. He was 82. The cause was organ failure, according to the New York Times.

Krasnow brought original ideas and his big personality to Warner Bros., Elektra and Blue Thumb. In 1983, he was one of Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun's choices to help create the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, alongside Rolling Stone publisher and editor Jann Wenner, Bruce Springsteen's manager Jon Landau, record exec Seymour Stein and attorney Suzan Evans; three years later, they held the first induction ceremony. His compendium of files and VHS tapes related to the second and third annual Rock Hall inductions make up the Robert Krasnow Collection in the organization's museum library.

Bob Hurwitz, president of Nonesuch Records, penned a tribute to Krasnow for the staff of Warner Music Group. "Few people in the music business can be said to have made a profound impact on the destiny of a company," he wrote. "Fewer still could be said to have an impact on two different companies. Bob Krasnow ... had a profound impact on four different record companies in his career."

Under Krasnow's tenure at Blue Thumb in the Sixties, the label signed Ike and Tina Turner, the Pointer Sisters, Dave Mason and Captain Beefheart, among others. Warner Bros., under his stewardship in the Seventies, signed Prince, Chaka Khan and George Clinton. His years at Elektra found the label championing Metallica, Björk, the Cure, the Cars and Tracy Chapman. At Nonesuch, during the time after Krasnow hired Hurwitz, the label forged a path for composers and avant-garde performers like Steve Reich, John Adams, Philip Glass, John Zorn and the Kronos Quartet.

In a 1991 keynote speech at the New Music Seminar in New York, Krasnow warned the music industry against complacency. "The record business finds itself dangerously close to creative stagnation," he said. "There's so much money lying around the corporate bank accounts that it's seemingly easier to buy a band or label than it is to take the time and let something develop. ... Your goal must be to seek out and promote great innovation. Your challenge is to do so in spite of the difficulties and temptations offered by an over-prosperous industry."

Over the years, Krasnow also worked at the Decca, King, Loma and Kama Sutra labels. He also helped found Buddha Records. During his time at King, he received a "record direction" credit in 1965 on James Brown's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" single.

He formed Krasnow Entertainment, which worked in the film and television media, in 1994. Throughout his career, he received honors and recognition from the March of Dimes and the T.J. Martell Foundation and was both a Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy honoree and Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipient.

"We will all say more about Bob in the upcoming days, but a few things should be noted," Hurwitz wrote in his memo. "First, he had a big personality, and it wasn't always the easiest personality. Second, he was a brilliant man, whose range of interests was as wide as anyone I've known in a position like that. Third, in terms of skill-set, I never met anyone who combined a knowledge of A&R, promotion and marketing like he did. At Elektra, there were great A&R, marketing and promotion people, but he was more adept in all of these areas than the next best in each department. The kind of person who was referred to as a 'record man.'"

David Geffen's assessment of Krasnow in 1994 was just as effusive. "[He] is one of the smartest and most talented executives working in the music business these days," he said at the time. "His track record as a talent scout is impeccable."