If there’s one single event in the music industry year besides the Grammys that draws more top-flight executives than any other, it’s the United Jewish Appeal’s luncheon, which raises money for the organization and honors a different executive or executives with its Music Visionary of the Year accolade. This year, the honorees were Spotify’s Daniel Ek and Troy Carter — and, true to form, the spotlight-averse Ek stayed home in Stockholm while Carter held it down.
While this year’s event raised some $1.2 million for the organization, it was a bit more low-key than years past, particularly 2017, when Universal EVP Michele Anthony was toasted by Gloria Steinem and Sharon Osbourne and serenaded by Alessia Cara and Eddie Vedder and Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam.
But Carter had some high-profile friends in the building: Musical entertainment was provided by R&B singer H.E.R. and Grammy-nominee Leon Bridges, and NBA legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving and iconic soul singer Patti LaBelle (pictured above) — both of whom have known Carter since his childhood in Philadelphia — paid homage to him. LaBelle actually called him “my little darling Troy” and said he was like a son to her. “For all the greatness you’re going to achieve, I’m here for you,” she said.
Carter was unaware that LaBelle would be there, and at the top of his acceptance speech he thanked her effusively for coming. “You had me cryin’ back there,” he said.
He also thanked DJ Jazzy Jeff, who MC’ed the event, and recalled his early days as part of a ninth-grade rap group called Two 2 Many. “We’d stand outside his studio on Delaware Avenue, and he’d look at us like stalkers and pretend not to see us.” He recalled a meeting with Jeff, Will Smith and the group’s management, for whom he’d eventually be working in his first music-industry job. “We had this stupid dream they were gonna sign us, and they did — and it was probably the fastest signing and dropping in history,” he said to laughter.
“The night I met Jeff changed the course of my life,” he said, and then recalled meeting someone else who changed his life, Daniel Ek, but “we bonded over our love for helping people,” he said. “We actually met in a remote village in Ethiopia, of all places. We were visiting people and places that were in desperate need of water, and we spent almost a week in the back of SUVs and at night by campfires, and that’s when I heard his incredible vision for transforming the music business. But when we were in Africa it was about transforming lives, and that’s what UJA does.”
He grew even more serious when he was discussing the impact organizations like UJA can have on a community. “I lost my dad for 13 years of my life because of gun violence,” he said. “But he was on the other side of the gun — he served 13 years in jail and I spent 13 years on the street learning how to be a man. There wasn’t anything like the UJA where I was, but I wish there was.”
He also tacitly explained his fellow honoree’s absence by saying, “If you know anything about the Swedes, they don’t like taking credit for anything — and if you know anything about Daniel, you know he absolutely hates the spotlight. But I also think it’s important for the world to know what our industry does — that we impact lives and outcomes. “