Gil Friesen, A&M 'Ampersand' Dies At 75

HOLLYWOOD (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Gil Friesen, the longtime president of A&M Records, died this week at his Brentwood home at the age of 75. Friesen had reportedly been fighting a prolonged battle with leukemia. In addition to serving A&M Records, the privately owned label founded by Jerry Moss and Herb Albert in 1962, Friesen was also the president of A&M Films, which was responsible for the making of The Breakfast Club among a dozen films.

Friesen began his career at Capitol Records before becoming A&M’s first general manager. It was Friesen who helped turn Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass into a successful touring attraction and developed artists from Cat Stevens, Joe Cocker, Rita Coolidge and The Carpenters to Janet Jackson, Sting, Bryan Adams and Amy Grant, according to Yahoo. Named president in 1977, Friesen became known as the ‘ampersand’ in A&M Records and expanded it into a full-service entertainment concern, with manufacturing, distribution and marketing agreements with other labels and international offices in London, Paris and Toronto.

"A&M always prided itself on being independent, and artists and managers recognized there was something about that quality, that characteristic, that uniqueness, that independence, that was attractive to them," Friesen said in 2006, according to Rolling Stone. "It made them less vulnerable to big business.

Along with Moss and Alpert, Friesen impressed label employees and artists. "Once people came through there, the depth of their artistry deepened because of their association with these guys. They just had this thing about them. They were so fucking cool," says Jim Guerinot, an executive at the label in the early Nineties who would leave to manage artists such as No Doubt and Nine Inch Nails according to Rolling Stone. "They took something that would otherwise be uncool and high society and made it hip and urbane."

Friesen also conceived A&M Films, housing its base of operations at the former Charlie Chaplin Studio in Hollywood. It took Friesen three years to see his first production. Finally, between Christmas 1984 and April 1985, A&M Films had three back-to-back features to unveil: Birdy for Tri-Star, directed by Alan Parker from William Wharton’s novel; The Breakfast Club, written and directed by John Hughes for Universal; and Better Off Dead by Cal Arts filmmaker “Savage” Steve Holland, according to Yahoo. A&M Films also produced Blaze with Paul Newman andThe Mighty Quinn with Denzel Washington among fewer than a dozen films.

In 1989, Polygram acquired A&M Records and included A&M Films in the sale. A year later, Friesen left the company.

Friesen also co-founded the Classic Sports Cable Network, which was sold to ESPN in 1997. That year, he was chairman of the Aspen Design Conference, according to Yahoo. — Crystal Lynn Huntoon