Legendary French label executive Eddie Barclay died at a Paris hospital May 13, aged 84. During his career, he signed such artists as Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour, Léo Ferré, and Claude Nougaro.
Barclay had been suffering from ill health for the past few years. He had been diagnosed with throat cancer in 1979 and also had a history of heart problems.
French minister of culture Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said in a statement that Barclay “had made a mark in the history of the record business.” He described him as “a precursor — often visionary — and a great producer, who contributed to write the history of French chanson.”
Born Edouard Ruault in 1921 in Paris, Barclay was France’s most famous music industry personality. He was renowned for his artistic flair, his lavish parties and his many weddings; he married nine times.
He had a brief stint as a piano bar player and band-leader during WW II. After the war, he launched Barclay’s jazz club in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
His career as an industry executive started in 1949 when he created with his then-wife Nicole the Blue Star jazz label, which then evolved into Disques Barclay. In 1955, he introduced in France the vinyl 33 rpm. At the end of the 1950s, he hired a young American jazz musician — Quincy Jones — as an arranger who worked on more than 250 studio sessions with Barclay.
His label expanded in the 1960s, attracting the top French-selling artists such as Mireille Mathieu, Dalida, and Eddy Mitchell. He also became one of the first international licensees for the Atlantic catalog.
In a 1998 interview with Billboard on the 50 years of Atlantic, the label’s co-founder and co-chairman Ahmet Ertegun described his relationship with Barclay.
“Eddie was a great gourmet,” said Ertegun. “Always had a wonderful chef, who would prepare unbelievable meals of 15 courses. Eddie became a national figure in France. He was a great magnet, a great host, a great personality, so everybody wanted to be with him. He signed up most of the important French artists.”
In 1979, hit by the music industry crisis, Barclay sold his company to Philips-owned conglomerate PolyGram and retired in Saint Tropez on the Riviera. His label survived as a unit of PolyGram and then Universal Music.
Universal Music France chairman/CEO Pascal Nègre paid tribute to Barclay as “one of the most formidable record executive of the past 50 years.”