Alan W. Livingston, an entertainment industry veteran whose career included creating the character of Bozo the Clown for popular children's read-along record albums in the 1940s and signing the Beatles during his tenure as president of Capitol Records in the 1960s, died Friday. He was 91.
FOR THE RECORD:
Alan Livingston obituary: The obituary of music industry executive Alan W. Livingston in Saturday's Section A referred to the song "Que Sera, Sera." The song originally was titled "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)," but the Doris Day hit for which Livingston's songwriter brother Jay won an Oscar was titled "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)." —
Livingston died of age-related causes at his home in Beverly Hills, said his step-daughter, Jennifer Lerner.
"Alan had a great passion and love of music, and he was a great friend to the artist community," said Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.
"He had great taste and judgment, as far as musical talent, and as an executive, he was always very mentoring, very supportive," said Portnow, who as president of 20th Century Fox Records in the late '70s reported to Livingston when he was a senior executive at 20th Century Fox Corp.
Livingston was best-known for his years as president of Capitol Records during the 1960s, when he signed artists such as the Beach Boys, Steve Miller and the Band.
His most famous signing, however, took longer than might be expected.
Livingston first heard about the Beatles in 1963 when he read about the group in the English music press.
The Beatles' records were being released in the United Kingdom by EMI. And because EMI was Capitol's major stockholder, Capitol had the right of first refusal on the Beatles in America. But Capitol rejected the Beatles' early hit singles as unsuitable for the American market.
At a meeting with Capitol's producers, Livingston asked Dave Dexter, who screened all of the English records, what he thought of the Beatles.
"He said, 'Alan, forget it,' " Livingston recalled in a 2004 Billboard interview. " 'They're a bunch of long-haired kids. They're nothing.' I said, 'OK,' and I had no reason to be concerned, because nothing from England was selling here."
Livingston finally received a call from the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, from London wanting to know why there was no interest in the group. When Livingston said he hadn't even heard the Beatles sing, Epstein told him to listen to one of their records and call him back.
Livingston did, and the Beatles signed with Capitol, which agreed on a $40,000 budget to promote their first single.
Livingston later recalled taking the Beatles' new single home to play for his wife, actress Nancy Olson.
"I had great respect for her because she had a good ear," he recalled in the 2004 interview. "She looked at me and said, 'I want to hold your hand? Are you kidding?' I said, 'God, I made a mistake!' "
In February 1964, the Beatles made their first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show," and Beatlemania in America was in full swing.
The youngest of three children, Livingston was born in McDonald, Pa., on Oct. 15, 1917.
While growing up, he took saxophone and clarinet lessons, and his brother, Jay, studied piano. Jay later teamed with fellow songwriter Ray Evans, and they shared Oscars for writing "Buttons and Bows," "Mona Lisa" and "Que Sera, Sera." Jay Livingston died in 2001.
Alan W. Livingston dies at 91; former president of Capitol Records
Livingston created the character Bozo the Clown for popular children's read-along record albums in the 1940s and signed the Beatles during his tenure as president of Capitol Records in the 1960s.
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
Los Angeles Times welcomes civil dialogue about our stories; you must register with the site to participate. We filter comments for language and adherence to our Terms of Service, but not for factual accuracy. By commenting, you agree to these legal terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.
Having technical problems? Check here for guidance.