Ewart G. Abner Jr., music industry veteran, dies at 74 – Brief Article

Ewart G. Abner Jr., music industry veteran, dies at 74 – Brief Article – Obituary

Ewart G. Abner Jr., a music industry veteran who helped direct the careers of such performers as Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5 on his way to I becoming president of Motown Records, died of complications from pneumonia at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA. He was 74.

Abner, known to his friends as “Ab,” began his music industry career in Chicago in 1948 working on the production line of a record company for 85 cents an hour. In 1950 he joined Art Sheridan to start Chance Records, then moved to Vee Jay Records, the first Black-owned, full-line record label, where he became general manager and later president. At Vee Jay, Abner released the first Beatles record in America as well as developed such artists as the Four Seasons, the Impressions and Jimmy Reed.

Motown founder Berry Gordy hired Abner in 1967, initially as vice president of international management. Abner also helped guide Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and the Four Tops.

While at Vee Jay, Abner also owned two Chicago jazz clubs, the Southerland Lounge and the Bird House.

He was Motown’s president from 1973 until he left the company in 1975.

For the next 10 years Abner was personal and business manager for recording artist Stevie Wonder, arranging his musical career and two marches to Washington, D.C., in support of establishing a Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday.

At the time of his death, Abner was executive assistant to Gordy and an executive vice president of Jobete Music Co. and Stone Diamond Music Corp. He also was vice chairman of the Motown Historical Museum in Detroit.

Abner was a founder of the Black Music Association in 1978; he served as executive vice president.

A recipient of an NAACP Image Award and an inductee into the Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame, Abner was active with the Black Music Association, B’nai B’rith, the Braille Institute, Hands Across America, the NAACP, the Urban League and We Are the World, among others.

The distinguished music executive is survived by his wife, Olivia Watson Abner; seven children, Billie Piantino, Diane Patterson, Chemin Ware, Tony, Allison, Ewart G. II and Casey Abner; one brother, David; two grandsons and one great-granddaughter.

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