Stanley M. Gortikov, a former Capitol Records executive who served as president of the RIAA from 1972-87, died June 24 at his home in Brentwood, Calif., of natural causes. He was 85.
As a Capitol exec in 1964, Gortikov was part of the team that spearheaded efforts to market the Beatles; later, as president of the label, he is credited with keeping a good company relationship with the Beatles after they formed Apple Corps in 1969.
At the RIAA, Gortikov guided the industry through a hail of criticism from parenting groups and federal lawmakers over records with explicit and violent lyrics. The debate over lyrics and artistic freedom resulted in the now-famous hearing in 1985 before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications. Gortikov argued at the hearing that suggestions for a rating system were unworkable, and that the great majority of the industry’s releases promoted positive values.
Recording artists invited to the hearing, notably the late Frank Zappa, called any rating system tantamount to artistic censorship. In November of that year, after consulting with member companies, Gortikov’s RIAA agreed to print warning labels on the covers of records with possibly objectionable lyrics.
Gortikov moved the trade group headquarters from New York to Washington, D.C., in 1986 to increase its presence with the nation’s policymakers.
“He was a real gentleman in every sense of the word,” says Hilary Rosen, who headed the RIAA from 1998-2003. “Looking back on it now, the truth is the parental advisory [sticker] has helped the industry to respond subsequently to attacks on content.”
She adds, “Stanley loved the record business and really built the RIAA into an institution that the companies could rely on.”
Gortikov will also be remembered for his efforts to ensure that lawmakers writing the 1976 Copyright Renewal Act gave new protections for sound recordings. He was also outspoken in efforts to increase the number of black executives in the music industry and led the RIAA’s early outreach to law enforcement to crack down on counterfeiting and piracy.
Services will be private. The family requests that contributions be made to Human Rights Watch.