Howell Llewellyn, who covered the music industry in Spain for Billboard for more than two decades, has died in Madrid. He was 60.
Widely known and respected within the Spanish music business, Llewellyn covered the companies and creativity of that market. His work ranged from an in-depth profile of the Spanish performing rights society SGAE to reports on the rise of “rock en español.” Most recently, he contributed to Billboard’s 2011 special feature on Maná as the band traveled to Spain for the European launch of Drama y Luz, one of the most successful albums of its career.
Passionate about Cuban music and culture, Llewellyn was particularly proud of a Billboard cover story in 1999 about Cuba’s timba music [embedded below], documenting what he called a “complex, frenetic, highly danceable form of Cuban salsa” that emerged with the collapse of the Soviet Communist bloc in the 1990s.
Llewellyn died at his home on Dec. 26. A cause of death was not given. A notice of his passing was posted online Jan. 24 by a funeral home in Madrid.
“Howell was one of Billboard’s most diligent, effective correspondents, capable of thorough reporting in news or features,” says Adam White, former international editor-in-chief of Billboard, who retired last year from his position as VP Communications of Universal Music Group International.
“He was an insightful journalist, and seemed to know everyone in the Spanish music industry, whether senior executive, up-and-coming star or workaday musician,” White recalled. “Moreover, about music, Howell was never short of an opinion, so our conversations were often lively, especially if held in an early-hours nightspot in Madrid. The music industry was lucky to have him.”
A native of Britain, Llewellyn told an interviewer for journalism.co.uk in 2008 that he came “from a generation where it was normal to take a year out hitch-hiking around some corner of the world before climbing too far up the `ladder of success.'” Travels in South America led to his first freelance dispatches in the mid ’70s on the political turmoil in Argentina. After pursuing Latin American studies at University College London between 1977 and 1980, Llewellyn freelanced for EFE, the Spanish international news agency.
Based in Madrid, Llewellyn wrote for the Hollywood Reporter, the Guardian and the Independent, the New Musical Express (NME), New Statesmen, El Pais, and numerous travel guides. He began writing for Billboard in 1991. One sign of his unusual versatility is that, while reporting for Billboard, he also covered the Spanish energy business for newsletters in the U.S. and the U.K.
A colorful character, Llewellyn acknowledged in his 2008 profile: “I’m seen as wacky and eccentric in Madrid because I cycle to most interviews or presentations – bicycles are still very rare in Madrid – and between May and October I wear short trousers and Menorcan leather flip-flops. That is accepted by the suit-and-tie mob only because I am an Anglo-Saxon freelancer.”
Reporting assistance provided by Terry Berne in Madrid.