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Robert Stigwood, Former Manager of Cream and the Bee Gees, Dies

Ron Galella, Getty Images
Ron Galella, Getty Images

Robert Stigwood, a manager who shepherded the careers of Cream and the Bee Gees before producing a string of smash musicals and films, has died at 81.

Stigwood began working with Cream in 1966, the same year he briefly lured the Who away from Brunswick Records long enough to record “Substitute” for his label Reaction Records. Stigwood produced Cream’s self-titled debut, also releasing it on Reaction, before signing a new distribution deal with Polydor that brought producer Felix Pappalardi on board in time for 1967’s celebrated Disraeli Gears.

That same year, Stigwood merged his first company with NEMS, which was founded by Beatles‘ manager Brian Epstein. But Epstein’s sudden death led Stigwood to form another venture, the Robert Stigwood Organisation. By then, he was already managing the Bee Gees. Later, he’d oversee Eric Clapton‘s post-Cream career (including the all-star band Blind Faith) as his company began producing theatrical hits such as Hair, Oh! Calcutta!, Pippin and Evita.

Stigwood added movie successes with the release of Saturday Night Fever (which featured principal musical contributions from the Bee Gees), Jesus Christ Superstar, Tommy and Grease. He also launched the RSO Records label to handle recordings by artists like Clapton, including the initially slow-selling, but now widely hailed Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominoes and the soundtracks for Fame and The Empire Strikes Back.

His notable stumbles include the 1978 film version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, another vehicle for the Bee Gees, as well as the sequels to Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Stigwood bounced back in the late ’90s, however, with the 1996 big-screen adaptation of Evita starring Madonna that won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture.

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