Pioneering female music industry executive Mercyline "Mike" Bernardo -- former VP of Andre Harrell's Uptown Records and VP of promotion at Mercury Records -- passed away on March 14 following a lengthy illness.
Raised in Newark, New Jersey, Bernardo spent four decades in the music industry. Starting out as a warehouse clerk at Merrick Distributors in Long Island, N.Y., she later joined Roulette Records' A&R division, working with such acts as Dinah Washington and Ray Charles. Following that was a stint as director of promotions at King Records, whose roster included James Brown and the Manhattans.
Bernardo segued to CBS Records (now Sony Entertainment) in 1975 as local promotion manager/Northeast regional -- the first black woman to become a regional promotions manager at CBS. Promoted to national director of promotions, she oversaw the promotions and marketing for all black music product on Columbia, Epic and the associated (EPA) labels. In 1979 she was named director of national promotion/jazz progressive music for Columbia and the EPA labels. During her CBS tenure, Bernardo oversaw projects by such acts as Teddy Pendergrass, Bill Withers, Santana, Public Enemy, the Isley Brothers, O¹Jays, the Jackson 5 and Earth, Wind & Fire.
Bernardo's resume includes being asked to join Uptown Records in 1991 by founder Andre Harrell. As VP of the promotion department there, she worked with Jodeci, Heavy D and Mary J. Blige as well as with fledgling music entrepreneur Sean "Diddy" Combs. As senior director of urban promotions in 1994 at Mercury Records and later VP of the department in 1996, Bernardo shepherded projects by Lionel Richie, Brian McKnight, Will Downing and Joe.
"Mama Mike," as Bernardo was affectionately known by many of the industry executives she mentored along the way, served as a board member of the Living Legends Foundation. She also founded the 331 Foundation, dedicated to helping children in crisis.
Services for Bernardo are being held Saturday (March 24) at the North Reformed Church in Newark. Any inquiries can be addressed to her daughter Elissa Gabrielle at firstname.lastname@example.org.