Milton Okun, Legendary Producer & Cherry Lane Founder, Dies at 92

Milton Okun
Angela Weiss/Getty Images for The Broad Stage

Milton Okun, center, with Placido Domingo and Okun's wife Rosemary at the opening night afterparty of "Dulce Rosa" presented by The Broad Stage and LA Opera on May 17, 2013, in Santa Monica, California.

"I have a producer who looks like an accountant and an accountant who looks like a producer," John Denver described Okun.

Legendary producer Milton "Milt" Okun, who produced for John Denver and Peter, Paul and Mary and founded the highly successful Cherry Lane Music Publishing Company, has died. He was 92. Okun has been called one of the most important music producers of all time. 

Once a child prodigy pianist, Okun suffered nephritis in his early teens. At a time before antibiotics, he was bedridden for two years and on recovery found that his gift of virtuosic playing was gone. After studying music and conducting at Oberlin, he became a music teacher in the New York public school system at the advice of conductor Dean Dixon until his love of folk music brought him to back to the music business as a singer, arranger and conductor with Harry Belafonte and the Harry Belafonte Singers. 

"I have a producer who looks like an accountant and an accountant who looks like a producer," Denver described Okun. 

In the early 1960s, Okun began his career as a music producer, working with folk acts such as Denver, Peter Paul and Mary, The Brothers Four, The Chad Mitchell Trio, Odetta, Laura Nyro and Tom Paxton, blending classical arrangements with folk and pop stylings. Over the span of his career, Okun earned more than 75 gold and platinum records and 16 Grammy nominations for his work.

Okun also had a successful career as a music publisher, founding Cherry Lane with his wife Rosemary in 1960 and building it into one of the world's largest independent publishing companies. In 2011, he released his memoir Along the Cherry Lane

Okun is survived by Rosemary, his wife of 58 years, and their children, daughter Jennifer Okun Sparks with husband Richard Sparks and their daughter Elizabeth, and son Andrew Okun with wife Julia Blanchard and their children, William and Emily Okun.