Jazz Summers, the legendary music manager behind acts including Wham!, the Verve, Snow Patrol, La Roux and London Grammar, has died aged 71 after a two-year bout of lung cancer.
Summers’ artists have sold more than 60m albums and 72m singles around the world, including more than 100 top 40 hits. A spokesman for Big Life Management, which Summers co-founded 29 years ago, said: “The music industry has lost one of its most vibrant, most notorious and most brilliant characters. A champion of new music, a non-conformist and a visionary, Jazz Summers will be greatly missed.” He added that Summers was a “master of artist development” and his ability to recognise the potential of a song had brought him “huge success across several decades”.
Summers was born on 15 March 1944. He enrolled in military school at the age of 12 before joining the army aged 15, serving as a radiographer in Hong Kong and Malaysia. In 1985, in partnership with Simon Napier-Bell, Summers helped Wham! to become the first western pop group to tour China. The crucial role the manager played in breaking the band in the US helped establish his reputation as an expert in the American market.
When he formed Big Life in partnership with Tim Parry in 1986, the pair released music from artists including The Orb, Coldcut, and De La Soul, on the label Big Life Records. Summers went on to win the Peter Grant Award in 2003 and Music Week’s Strat Award in 2007. As chairman of the Music Managers Forum, he was also an active campaigner for artists’ rights and prominent in setting up the Featured Artists’ Coalition, and Julie’s Bicycle, a not-for-profit organisation working on sustainability in the creative industries.
Music figures have paid tribute to Summers on social media today. The Orchard’s Chris Duncan said he was “a fierce competitor and character who fought for his artists”. The Official Charts Company’s Martin Talbot said he was “genuinely humble, appreciated by artists and respected by labels”.
Culture Club singer Boy George wrote on Twitter: “Heartbroken to hear that my friend and ex-manager Jazz Summers has passed away. He was a formidable force of nature! A fighter till the end.” Former Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe said: “We’ve lost a good friend. Thank you Jazz Summers for your guidance and friendship. The support Jazz gave his artists was unflinching.” And British band the Futureheads tweeted: “Jazz Summers meant the world to the four of us. He had a huge heart and was full of vital energy to always make things happen. RIP Jazz.”
Various Artists Management’s David Bianchi said that “UK music has lost a big force”, former NME editor Conor McNicholas said he would be “sadly missed” and Kerrang! editor James McMahon called Summers “one of the all-time great music business personalities”. Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody tweeted: “So sad that Jazz Summers has passed away. He believed in Snow Patrol when few did & was a huge reason for our success. Thank you, Jazz.”
Summers is survived by his wife Dianna, his daughters Katie, Rio and Georgia, his granddaughters Claire, Lila and Rose, and his brother Don.
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