Jerry Weintraub: Remembering His Impact on Music Business

Jerry Weintraub Impact on Music Business
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

I was just getting ready to email him about our lunch. Literally. My plan was to get off the phone and then send him a note. Circling back after he had reached out multiple times before I went to Paris. And while I was on hold, I found out he had died.

I’ve never had this happen. People speak of missing out on saying goodbye, of their destiny being changed in seconds, but this was eerie.

I didn’t know what Jerry Weintraub wanted, and now, I never will. To be honest, I’m always anxious when bigwigs track me down. I feel inadequate, and I frequently avoid the meeting; I don’t quite know what to say.

Although I knew Jerry. We weren’t best friends, but I knew him. I went to lunch with him at Il Piccolino, where he ate — what else — the Jerry Weintraub Special. He was warm and open from the get-go, treated me like an equal, brought me into the family, and I marveled at his style.

I’m not talking East Coast style, which is sartorial and includes a pecking order, but rather West Coast style, where it’s all about being part of the family, where the majordomos take care of each other. Weintraub established the paradigm. At least in the music business.

You see, it was about favors. There’s nothing Weintraub wouldn’t do for you. He was wired into every facet of life. If you needed a doctor, if you needed a connection, he knew who to go to, and opened the door. It’s those who give who are larger than life, who have power. That’s Irving Azoff’s specialty. And David Geffen’s too. You’ve got to be magnanimous. But you’ve got to fight for what you want, too.

Weintraub reached out to me when I wrote about his book, the lamentably, but perhaps appropriately, titled “When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories From a Persuasive Man.” He invited me to the premiere of the HBO movie about his life, “His Way.” He never talked down to me, and I was looking forward to our lunch to cement the bond further. Maybe he had an opportunity for me.

But I’ll never know.

I do know that this narrative ends up sounding more about me than about him. But that’s who Jerry was, a supporting player. And the more you support, the longer you last — the bigger you are.

People like Weintraub never retire. The game is in their blood. Hell, he just launched a show, “The Brink,” on HBO, with another one, “Westworld,” on the way. A “Tarzan” move is in post for Warners.

And he changed the concert business irrevocably — so far in the distant past that unless you were there, you’re probably unaware. Live Nation is just the last iteration of what Weintraub started. Local promotion was on its way out when he got involved. And the old players hated him for it. If you’re not despised, you’re not making a difference. But those who make a difference last; they are the legends.

What I also loved about Jerry was his intimacy. He’d tell you stories about himself and his family that your best friends wouldn’t tell about themselves — screw-ups as well as triumphs. He was Big Papa, but he had his limits; you could go too far.

Weintraub won at the game of life. He had love, happiness and money. And although he complained about aches and pains — his back was a constant frustration — I thought he’d be around forever.

But he’s not.

So let this be a warning to you. Seize that opportunity. Say yes. Make it happen.

Jerry always did.

And I didn’t. Which is why I feel so empty now that he’s gone.

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