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Don Grierson, A&R Exec Who Signed Celine Dion, Worked With the Beatles, Dies at 77

Don Grierson, a notable A&R executive who first signed Celine Dion to Epic Records and received a Golden Apple Award from The Beatles while at Capitol Records, died on Jan. 5. He was 77.

The U.K.-born Grierson worked as a local radio DJ in Australia at the age of 18, but dreamed of moving to the U.S.as a promotion executive for various labels.

His half-century music industry career included stints as an A&R Coordinator, West Coast, for RCA Records; Manager for International Promotion and West Coast Promotion Manager at Capitol Records, where he helped promote The Beatles’ early records, and was awarded a Golden Apple Award in 1968 from the band recognizing his efforts from 1966-‘69. Grierson went on to become VP/Head of &R for both EMI America and Capitol Records and Senior Vice President/Head of A&R at Epic Records, where he famously signed Celine Dion to her first recording contract after sister label Columbia turned her down. She rewarded his faith with her debut single, “Where Does My Heart Beat Now,” which hit the Top 5 on the singles chart in January 1991.

Among the artists he worked with over an impressive, half-century-long career were Michael Jackson, Kim Carnes, Sheena Easton, Kate Bush, J. Geils Band, Kenny Rogers, Heart, Joe Cocker, Melba Moore, Megadeth, W.A.S.P. and George Clinton. He also played a role in the work of Tina Turner, Bob Seger, Anne Murray, The Motels, Duran Duran, The Power Station, Crowded House, Poison, the Smithereens, Gloria Estefan, Cyndi Lauper, the Jacksons, Living Colour, Indigo Girls, Allman Brothers Band, Alice Cooper, Social Distortion and Firehouse, among many others.

During the ‘90s. Grierson founded reissue labels Drive Entertainment, re-releasing more than 140 albums by artists such as Billie Holiday, Count Basie Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Parker.

Grierson also served as a music consultant for new artists, managers and indie labels, co-authoring the book, “It All Begins With Music: Developing Successful Artists and Careers for the New Music  Business,” and served as an instructor at Musicians’ Institute’s College of Contemporary Music in Los Angeles.

At the time of his death, Grierson worked at Younk, a company he co-founded last year as his vision of music creation and community involvement. “As a Lead Expert, he helped boost, develop and release young talent all over the world,” read a statement from the company. “We truly believe that his input was priceless and that [he] will forever be our guiding star in the Universe of Music.”

He is survived by his wife Deborah, daughter Nicole and brother Barry in addition to ex-wife Patricia Chow.

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