EMI veteran Ken East, a key figure in the Australian and U.K. record industries in the 1970s and 1980s, died Nov. 25 at his home in Elizabeth Bay in Sydney. East, who had been battling cancer for some months, was 83.

Elton John dedicated his show Wednesday night (Nov. 29) at Sydney's Acer Arena to East and his widow Dolly. "Ken was probably without a doubt (sic) one of the greatest record men I have ever met," the singer said. "He was a great man. He was also a great Australian, which is more important."

John told the crowd that while East had positions abroad, "his great love was to come back here by the bay and look over the ocean. That's where he died, looking out over his beloved Sydney Harbour. I was so pleased to be able to be here to say goodbye to him."

Peter Dawkins, Sydney-based house producer at EMI Music Australia from 1972 and 1975 and later GM of the company, described East's management style as "very down to earth," and credits the executive for "rebuilding EMI's in-house studio 301, and building up its Australian roster" with acts as John Farnham, Russell Morris, Ariel, Spectrum and Ross Ryan.

East was born, May 27, 1924 in Sydney. After serving in World War II as a radar technician with the Royal Australian Air Force in New Guinea, he moved into the import/export business in his hometown, handling engineering and automotive products. In 1952, he joined EMI as a salesman with its Australian company. It proved to be the first phase in a long and fruitful career with EMI both at home and in the U.K.

In the 1960s, he rose to managing director of EMI Records Gramophone Company, and by October 1970 had been appointed managing director of EMI Australia. The following April, he rose to CEO of EMI Australia.

By 1979, East had risen to the upper echelon of the company, serving as president and COO, EMI Music - Europe and International with responsibility for the company's operations outside North America and Japan.

Company documents list East as having directorships of 16 wholly-owned Thorn EMI Group U.K. companies in 1984, directorships of 3 other U.K. firms and 20 overseas directorships. After retiring on May 31,1989, East split much of his time between Sydney and London.

East's funeral will be held tomorrow (Nov. 30).