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Aretha Franklin, Ray Parker Jr. Publicist Barbara Shelley Dies At 64

Barbara Shelley, veteran music publicist for Aretha Franklin, Ray Parker Jr. and others, passes away at 64

Barbara Shelley 2015
Barbara Shelley Courtesy Photo

Services are today (Oct. 8) in Scottsdale, Arizona for veteran music publicist Barbara Shelley, who worked with Aretha Franklin, Ray Parker Jr. and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among others. Shelley passed away at her Scottsdale home on Sept. 30 of an undisclosed cause. She was 64 years old.

“I look back with fondness and respect on the time we spent together,” said Franklin in a statement. “She got me to and from my appointments and interviews with a great sense of humor.”

Added Parker in a separate statement, “She gave me my entire career. She was the only publicist I ever had. My career was based on her.”

A graduate of Boston University, Shelley served as general manager at the Howard Bloom Agency early in her career before joining Clive Davis-helmed Arista Records in 1978. Advancing from associate director of publicity for R&B and jazz to national publicity director for the label in 1981, Shelley later moved to Los Angeles as the label’s West Coast publicity director before leaving the company in 1984. Her career also included posts as head of publicity for Casablanca Records and vp of publicity at Rhino Entertainment.

Shelley operated her own publicity firm in Los Angeles until 2002, when she was forced to close her office owing to health issues. She relocated to Scottsdale, where she took care of her father until his passing. Prior to that, she served as secretary and treasurer of the Los Angeles Chapter of The Recording Academy, where she worked closely with former Arista West Coast head and Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow.

“I always admired her passion for her work and clients, her warm personality and energetic spirit, and her fierce commitment to excellence,” said Portnow. “Barbara was a wonderful person and she will be greatly missed.”

Shelley is survived by her brother Michael Appelbaum and his wife, three nephews and a niece. Memorial donations in Shelley’s name may be made to MusiCares (