Jaquelyne Ledent-Vilain, 1945-2024: Tributes paid to "beloved" Warner Music legend

Jaquelyne Ledent-Vilain, 1945-2024: Tributes paid to

The music industry is mourning the loss of Jaquelyne Ledent-Vilain – born on February 17, 1945, and who died on January 18, 2024 in Paris. An integral and important part of Warner Music for over four decades, she was beloved of both artists and staff alike. Here Matthew Rankin, senior vice president at Nonesuch Records pays tribute to a much missed executive.

At the start of my own career at Warner Music I was fortunate to be in the company of some formidable women mentors, none more so than la formidable Jaquelyne Ledent-Vilain, who embodied the meaning of that word in both English and French, her mother tongue.

I feel blessed to have known Jaquelyne. I realised last week, as we began preparing for her departure, just how many lives she had touched around the world. Breaking the news to artists and colleagues has been distressing, but the responses are testament to how loved she was.

Appropriately, Jaquelyne began her working life as a teacher. Living in Switzerland, she took a supposedly temporary job at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1974, working with Claude Nobs as the, in her own words, “backstage girl” (a “summer job” she maintained until recently). From there, swapping Molière and Voltaire for copies of Billboard, she soon joined Warner Music’s fledgling international division at the invitation of Nesuhi Ertegun, where she was responsible for international promotions, accompanying artists on promotional tours around the globe. 

Jaquelyne was the consummate professional and exuded integrity – she protected her artists, was fearless and fierce, respectful and caring, courageous and humorous, selfless and humble

Matthew Rankin

Though she never returned to the classroom, Jaquelyne continued to teach so many of us. I inherited responsibility for three of her charges - Tracy Chapman, k.d. lang and Natalie Merchant (“How are my girls?” she’d ask me) - and I know I owe my career in part to the important lessons Jaquelyne taught me over a quarter of a century. And this sentiment of gratitude I have heard echoed lately by many artists too. 

“We’re here now because of Jaquelyne back then.”

The list of artists is as impressively varied as it is culturally significant. From AC/DC to ZZ Top, and including, to name just a few: Jackson Browne, Busta Rhymes, Eric Clapton, Natalie Cole, Phil Collins, Fleetwood Mac, Chris Isaak, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, Missy Elliott, Randy Newman, Prince, Joni Mitchell, REM, Rolling Stones, Nina Simone, and Neil Young.

Always armed with her notebook and a cigarette, she was the consummate professional and exuded integrity. She protected her artists, was fearless and fierce, respectful and caring, courageous and humorous, selfless and humble. Personal relationships mattered to her. Despite the suggestion made countless times that she should write a book, she refused. Her anecdotes were always respectful and an opportunity to impart wisdom, not gossip. A class act.

Jaquelyne understood the importance of privacy in the lives of others as much as her own, and while music and Warner were major parts of her life, they were not everything. Books and travel to places off the beaten track were her other passions. Right up to the end, my offer to bring her books from London would result in her requests akin to a reading list for a student in international relations.

I think of the life Jaquelyne lived and I think of Mary Oliver’s poem When Death Comes. Swift rebirth, our friend, Jaquelyne, an intrepid hero, and a truly key behind-the-scenes figure. You will be missed.

Words: Matthew Rankin (senior vice president, Nonesuch Records)

+ Paris memorial (Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Paris, Feb 2 @ 1pm), request for no flowers, donations to appropriate cancer research charity, details TBD 

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