Billy Meshel, a songwriter and top music publishing executive with a more than 50-year industry track record, passed away in the Los Angeles area on May 30 after a battle with lymphoma. He was 82.
The one-time head of BMG Music Publishing began his career pitching songs he wrote at the Brill Building, eventually landing a job as a staff songwriter at Leeds Music from 1959-1962, according to his company’s website Music & Media International.
During the 1960’s through the mid-1970’s he worked as a staff songwriter and sometimes as the creative director for such music publishing companies as South Mountain Music, Hugo & Luigi/H&L Music, LF Music and Famous Music. During that time he co-wrote such songs as the Brady Bunch’s “Time To Change,” “Come Live Your Life With Me (Godfather Waltz),” recorded by Al Martino, and “Dear Mrs. Applebee,” a hit for David Garrick, among other songs.
“Billy Meshel will always be remembered as a giant in the music industry,” BMI VP of writer-publisher relations Barbara Cane who called Meshel a friend and mentor, in an e-mail she wrote that was forwarded to Billboard and confirmed. “He was a great music publisher who always knew a great song when he heard it.”
In 1976 he was brought in by Clive Davis to be president of Arista Music, which would be acquired by BMG Music Publishing in 1985. As part of the acquisition, he became president of BMG Music Publishing. Meshel “was a bundle of energy, totally kind, thoughtful and an exceptional achiever,” Davis wrote in an e-mail to Billboard. “He loved music — good music — and his belief was always extremely infectious and contagious. Billy and I had wonderful years together and I cherish the warm memories.”
After BMG, he served as president of All Nations Music Publishing and then started his own company Music & Media International in 1997. According to the latter company’s website, during Meshel’s career as a publishing executive he worked with such artist and songwriters as: Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer, Bob Merrill, Mike Chapman, Exile, The Statler Bros., Eddie Rabbitt, Randy Travis, Merle Haggard, Larry Gatlin, Lobo, Jim Stafford, The Hollies, The Hues Corporation, Air Supply, Alan Parsons Project, The Sex Pistols, Hoagy Carmichael Publishing, Danny Elfman, The Allman Brothers, G.Q., The Eurythmics, Holland-Dozier-Holland, The Platters catalog, Michael Omartian, and the Estate Of Robert Johnson.
Round Hill Music president Neil Gillis, who crossed paths with Meshel occasionally remembers him for the encouragement he provided to him. “He’d say ‘you’re an old school publisher in a young man’s body,” Gillis said in an e-mail. “Get out and build something.’ and would always drop me a note and say ‘keep up the good work as it will pay off.'”
Meshel is survived by his wife, Roberta’ his children Laura Meshel-Young and her husband Dave; son David Meshell and wife Elise; and four grandchildren.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated with Meshel’s correct age at his time of death. He was 82, not 75.