Bill Dern, Former New Edition Manager and ‘Cool It Now’ Producer, Dies at 74

William “Bill” Dern, a longtime music executive who worked with such acts as New Edition, the Temptations, Tangerine Dream and the Four Tops, died of a stroke in Los Angeles on Sept. 11. He was 74.

Born in Ridgewood, New Jersey on August 22, 1945, Dern was an avid music lover who played multiple instruments — drums, piano, banjo — and wrote arrangements. While still in high school, he worked in jazz clubs and recording studios. Following his university studies at U of Penn’s Wharton, where he received a degree in economics, he went to work on Wall Street, eventually returning to music and bringing along the business skills he picked up from finance.

Dern’s first job in the music industry was to carry records to Carnegie Hall for Louis Armstrong. He later went on to work for jazz label CTI, TWN Management (Michael Kamen, Tangerine Dream, Commander Cody, Kool and the Gang, Dr. John) 1981 to 1985 and AMI Management (New Edition, John Waite, Donny Osmond, Sister Sledge) through 1991 when he relaunched Bill Dern Management.

He was also a noted producer, whose credits include New Edition’s hit song “Cool It Now” and music by the Four Tops and The Temptations as well as the Motown Christmas album.

Film rounded out Dern’s entertainment interests, starting in 1981 when he was cast as banjo player for John Waters’ “Polyester.” He went on to such roles as music supervisor (1994’s “Boca,” the forthcoming independent feature “Holy New York”)) and business affairs (“Hate Crime,” “Sedona”).

Consulting for Diane Warren along with such record labels as Atlantic, RCA, Motown and BMG, among others, kept Dern firmly entrenched in the industry for years after.

Dern is survived by his longtime love, Roberta Thompson; his cousins David Meinert, Eric Mercury, Don Sorkin, Steven Machat; and dear friends Diane Warren and Chris Corabi (Annapurna Pictures).

An announcement of his death notes that Dern “had no children but mentored and loved young several musicians who became his surrogate children: Shanice Wilson, Ebony Tay, Don Schnieder, Doug Bigsby.”

Donations in Dern’s memory can be made to MusiCares and Film Forum. A memorial will be held in Los Angeles at a later date.

More Music

  • BTS Map of the Soul 7

    BTS’ ‘Map of the Soul: 7’: Album Review

    As the first South Korean band to attain superstar status in the United States, BTS have done an remarkable job of maintaining it. Each album has topped its predecessor, and the group’s fourth full studio outing, “Map of the Soul: 7,” looks to be no exception, with all 20 of its titles landed in the [...]

  • A-ha!

    'A-ha: The Movie' on 'Take on Me' Band to Receive Worldwide Release (EXCLUSIVE)

    A feature documentary on Norwegian “Take On Me” singers A-ha will receive a worldwide release this November. “A-ha: The Movie,” distributed internationally by Esther van Messel’s First Hand Films, will be broadcast in theaters around the world on Nov. 26, with Germany’s Salzgeber releasing the film locally and First Hand Films handling the release in [...]

  • Rihanna

    Rihanna Pleads for Equality at NAACP Image Awards: 'Tell Your Friends to Pull Up'

    Rihanna was the recipient of the NAACP President’s Award. The honor is bestowed on an entertainer whose commitment to philanthropy is unparalleled. Rihanna, whose chosen charities include the Clara Lionel Foundation, Raising Malawi and UNICEF and was honored as Harvard’s Humanitarian of the Year in 2017, was in attendance for the NAACP Image Awards show, [...]

  • Lizzo51st Annual NAACP Image Awards, Arrivals,

    NAACP Winners 2020: The Complete List

    Lizzo was named Entertainer of the Year at the 51st NAACP Image Awards on Saturday. The singer-rapper edged out Angela Bassett, Billy Porter, Regina King and Tyler Perry for the night’s top prize. Warner Bros.’ legal drama “Just Mercy,” meanwhile, nearly swept the top film awards, taking home best motion picture, ensemble, best actor (Michael [...]

  • Yung Gravy

    Rapper Yung Gravy Brings 'Minnesota Nice' to Twin Cities: Concert Review

    There has always been a place for humor in rap, with a lineage reaching back to the Beastie Boys’ debut album or 2 Live Crew’s raunchy records in the eighties. The caveat for “funny” rap being that if you go the humorous route, you need to have your bars land right, and to do so [...]

  • BTS

    BTS Opens Up About the Past, Creativity and Inspiration for 'Map of the Soul: 7' (Watch)

    With a reported four million copies in worldwide pre-orders and their stars shining brighter than ever thanks to chart-topping albums and playing the world’s biggest stages, BTS’ just-released “Map of the Soul: 7” was sure to be a success no matter what it sounded like. But instead of resting on starpower, the record-breaking group decided [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content