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Russ Regan, Music Executive Who Signed Elton John and Neil Diamond, Dies at 89

He is credited with the rare achievement of No. 1 hits in four successive decades.

Russ Regan, a music industry veteran who worked with Elton John, Neil Diamond, Olivia Newton John and Smokey Robinson, died at his home in Palm Springs on Sunday, May 27. He was 89.

Among his accolades: Regan is the rare executive to have seen No. 1 hits in four successive decades. And equally impactful: Regan brought “That’s Life,” to Frank Sinatra, which would turn into a 1966 smash.

Born Harold Rustigan, Regan held positions at Motown, Uni Records (Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints”), 20th Century Records (Ambrosia, Barry White) and Polygram Records during a career that spanned the 1960s to 1990s.

His start in music was at Motown where he was part of the record promotion team and worked songs like “Please Mr. Postman,” by The Marvelettes, as well as classics by the Supremes, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations and Marvin Gaye,

Credits at Uni also included a hit by Hugh Masakela (1968’s “Grazing In The Grass”), helping develop “The Beach Boys,” and championing Diamond, who said in a statement: “Russ Regan was there for me from the beginning at Uni Records and he knew a hit record when he heard it;.’Sweet Caroline’, ‘Cracklin’ Rosie’, ‘I Am.. I Said’ and ‘Holly Holy’ are just a few of the hits Russ released during my time there. Russ was always on the artist’s side and would come into the studio while I was recording and his face would light up when he knew he heard a hit song. He made me and a new guy that he signed after me, Elton John worldwide superstars. … Russ was a great guy all around. This is a sad loss for the music industry and the end of an era.  My deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Added Bernie Taupin: “He was larger than life; a big-hearted maverick, whose belief in us was a key component to our success in America.”

Crediting Regan with a key career decision, Newton John said: “he encouraged me to move to America, which began my career.  He was a very good man!”

In addition, Regan worked on many successful movie soundtracks including “Endless Love,” “Breakin’,” “The Karate Kid,” “This Is Spinal Tap” and “A Chorus Line” and had a hand in Oscar-winning songs from the films “The Poseidon Adventure,” “The Towering Inferno,” “Flashdance” and “Chariots of Fire.”

Regan is survived by his wife of 30 years, Sheryl, children Marc, Rachael and Daniel, sister Margaret and son-in-law Eric. He was predeceased by his brother Ray and sister Carol. Regan’s family asks that in lieu of flowers, consideration be given in Russ’s name to his favorite charity, the Recording Academy’s MusiCares.

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