Gary Stewart, the influential Rhino Entertainment and Apple Music executive who died Thursday at the age of 62, received a heartfelt tribute from singer Elvis Costello over the weekend.
“This morning’s brief promise of Spring was punctured by the news of the passing of Gary Stewart,” Costello wrote in a Facebook tribute published Sunday. “It is rare enough to find people of insight, kindness and loyalty but Gary had all these qualities in abundance. Friends have called or written all today trying to make sense of the impossible and the inexplicable.”
Costello was one of Stewart’s favorite artists and the two became close personal friends after Stewart oversaw reissues of Costello’s works at Rhino beginning in 2001.
“As the vocation of criticism has become more fragmented, spiteful and distracted, so people with Gary’s gift for advocacy needed to be valued,” Costello continued. “His appreciation of our work was immensely generous and deeply informed by personal emotion. With his help, I was encouraged to tell a broader tale as we compiled my catalogue for release on Rhino Records, augmenting the original albums with every outtake, sketch and mistake that I could find, all annotated until I’d run out of paper and ink.”
Costello further highlighted Stewart’s enthusiasm and generosity with an anecdote about the time Stewart bought a “stash” of tickets to Costello’s show at the Greek Theatre during the singer’s Imperial Bedroom & Other Chambers tour.
“Gary didn’t seek a place on the guest list to which he would have always been welcome but rather bought a stash of tickets to give to friends as that record had meant a lot to him and he wanted his pals to hear what we were up to with the songs after all these years,” said Costello. “I even had to decline his offer of hosting a reception after the set, as I knew I had to sing the next night and talking into the small hours would be unwise. I know that when we return to the Greek in July, the band and I will pour a chaste glass and raise a toast to our friend.”
Stewart’s much-noted philanthropy also clearly struck a chord with Costello.
“[His] generosity extended beyond mere music business tributaries and blind alleys and into a sense of community and the desire and need to be of service. I know I am not alone in being grateful for having known and worked with Gary and send my deepest condolences to his family and all his many friends.”
Stewart was a musical savant who began working for Rhino in the mid 1970s. During his time at the company, he oversaw the release of a number of well-received catalog collections and eventually rose to senior VP A&R. He later worked as chief musical officer at Apple’s iTunes and catalog curator at Apple Music before leaving the company for good in 2018. Additionally, he co-founded the website Trunkworthy with David Gorman, which “evangelize[d]” underappreciated movies, music and television.
Read Costello’s full post below.