Industry tributes to Beatles and Bob Marley music publishing executive Nigel Burlinson

Industry tributes to Beatles and Bob Marley music publishing executive Nigel Burlinson

Music publishing executive Nigel Burlinson has died aged 86. 

He has been widely remembered for his work on the administration of The Beatles' song catalogue in the 1960s, as well as being credited by former president of Rondor Music, Lance Freed, with being largely responsible for the loyalty Bob Marley felt towards the company.

Early in his career, Burlinson worked for Beatles music publisher Dick James where he handled all administrative matters relating to the band’s works. He also worked with Elton John early in the songwriter's career. 

Burlinson then moved onto Planetary Nom, the UK partner of Morris Levy's Roulette Records, before becoming director of royalties at the newly-launched UK division of Rondor Music. 

Burlinson then spent much of the next three decades as a highly-valued member of Rondor's worldwide team. He supervised artists’ catalogues including The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson, Billy Preston, Bob Marley, Joan Armatrading, Herb Alpert, Albert Hammond, Johnny Nash, Gallagher & Lyle, The Carpenters and Dire Straits, among others. 

In the early 1980s he began running the copyright department of Warner Bros Music USA, before returning to the UK four years later where he worked with Warner Bros in London. 

After spending a period of time in France with his wife, Burlinson began working in the Paris office of the newly-merged Warner Chappell Music before becoming head of royalties and accounting. 

Throughout his career, he was in demand with music companies such as BMG, MCA, Warner Chappell and Bear Family Records, among others, and he contributed discographies and liner notes for product retrospectives of major artists such as Bill Haley, Dean Martin, Doris Day, Pat Boone, Rosemary Clooney and Johnnie Ray. 

Owing to his experience, Burlinson was also consulted by Beatles historians to recall events from his perspective in the centre of the band’s publishing world in the 1960s. 

Former president of Rondor Music, Lance Freed, paid tribute to Burlinson.

“Nigel Burlinson was an integral part of Rondor Music’s success in the 1970s," he said. "He was director of royalties in the formative years at our UK company and he was a large factor in the affection Bob Marley felt for the company. He was a gentle man who was loved by every one of us. I remember him as a remarkable person who was generous in spirit and kindness.  

“He will be long remembered and celebrated by all of us who had the privilege of working with him. It’s not often that simple human kindnesses like that can set the standard for a company, but Nigel set the bar so high we all admired and loved him. The news of his passing will have a profound effect on all who knew him.” 

Derek Green, founding managing director of Rondor Music UK, from 1971-75, first worked with Burlinson at Carlin Music in the early 1960s.

He said: "He was by far the finest and most knowledgeable copyright man in Britain. It was not rare or unusual for talent almost to base their relationship with us on their appreciation for Nigel's understanding of the business. They liked to spend time with him and they respected what he had to say. He was a major part of our growth.”

"Nigel was a rare find in the rough and tumble music industry at that time,” said Bob Grace, managing director of Rondor Music from 1975-85. “He was extremely kind, honourable and considerate at all times. He was absolutely fascinated by the industry that he loved. I was privileged to learn so much from him. And as to his expertise in his field of copyright and royalty accounting: he acquired the right to be called an expert." 

Burlinson’s friend, producer and Beatles scholar Martin Lewis, added: “In essence, he overflowed with human kindness. He was a man of grace and dignity. He was – in the original sense of the term – quite literally a gentle man. To repurpose some phrases I learned from him, 'I will miss Nigel for the life of copyright and in perpetuity. And all renewable extensions thereupon...'" 

PHOTO: John Farley 

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