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Publicist Norman Winter Dies at 85

Influential publicist Norman Winter (pictured center above), who represented Michael Jackson, Elton John, Bob Dylan along with many other rock stars, movie stars, bestselling authors and music congloms, died Aug. 22 from complications of Lewy Body Disease at a Las Vegas area hospital. He was 85.

Winter also repped Janet Jackson, Queen, the Who, Barry White, Smokey Robinson, George Michael, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Tony Curtis, Sophia Loren, Joan Collins, CBS Records and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” to name but a few.

As a Brooklyn-born teen, Winter began his career when he headed to Hollywood as a fanzine photographer for Frank Sinatra. Lee Zhito, editor-in-chief and publisher of Billboard magazine, urged Winter to become a PR man, and Winter ultimately landed a job as publicity chief for MCA/Universal Records. After a string of successes at Universal, including the “Jesus Christ Superstar” album, and helping to propel Elton John to superstardom, Winter opened his own PR/marketing firm, Norman Winter / Associates.

Winter also played a key role in catapulting Jackson’s “Thriller” to become the bestselling album of all time. The unconventional publicist also played a vital role in the Victory Tour, Jackson’s acquisition of the Beatles’ catalog and his Pepsi endorsement. Winter joined Jackson at the White House, where then President Ronald Reagan honored the superstar. Winter actually wrote text for the president’s speech.

With offices on both coasts, and artists around the world, Winter delivered successes for music acts including Rick James, Lynyrd Skynyrd, AC/DC, Steppenwolf, Meatloaf, Johnny Rivers, the Jefferson Airplane’s Marty Balin, Christopher Cross, Donny Osmond, Garth Brooks, Herb Alpert, Paul Anka, Phil Ramone, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Bootsy Collins, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Brian McKnight, Outkast, Usher, Jimmy Cliff, Morris Day and gospel luminaries Jennifer Knapp and multiple-Grammy winner Deniece Williams. He also repped Steve Martin, Joan Collins and Arsenio Hall,

Boosting a number of key rap and hip-hop artists, Winter guided NWA’s late Eazy-E, Dr Dre, Babyface and Bangin’ On Wax (the Bloods & Crips collaboration), Domino, Bone Thugs -N- Harmony and Eddie Griffin to the top of the charts.

Winter’s corporate clients included Virgin Records (Noo Trybe), Ruthless Records, The Scotch Magnetic Tape Division of 3M, The Lincoln Mint, The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS), ASCAP, BMI, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., Warner/Chappell, CBS Songs, CBS Records Group, Allied Artists Music Group, Scotti Brothers Records, TJ Martell Foundation and Windswept Pacific Holdings. Billboard Publications selected Winter to publicize the magazine’s International Music Industry Conferences (IMIC) in Washington, DC, Venice, and Monte Carlo. Billboard Magazine also retained Winter to publicize their annual song contest.

He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Joy, daughters Jennifer and Elizabeth and brother Alfred.

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