Passings: Tony Martell (1926 - 2016)

by VVN Music

Record company executive and major philanthropist Tony Martell passed away on Sunday at his home in Madison, NJ. He was 90.

Martell worked in the music industry as a senior executive from the 1960's through the 1990's. In the 60's and 70's, he was instrumental in the careers of artists like the Isley Brothers and the O'Jays who both recorded for Columbia Records subsidiaries. His work within the Columbia labels continued in the 80's, bringing Ozzy Osbourne and Stevie Ray Vaughan to Epic Records along with working with the Electric Light Orchestra, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Joan Jett.

Even with all his work in music, Martell's legacy will be the T.J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia, Cancer and AIDS Research. In Martell's own words:

It began with a promise I made to my dying son.

In 1973, my son, T.J. Martell, was a high school student battling leukemia. He asked me to raise a million dollars for cancer research so that “no one else will have to experience what I am going through.” Although I had no fundraising experience, I agreed.

Two years later, T.J. died at the age of nineteen, and that put my promise in cement. Soon after, I was joined by many of my friends in the music industry like Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, and Duke Ellington to hold a fundraiser at Buddy Rich’s nightclub in New York. We raised $50,000 and the T.J. Martell Foundation was born.

Over the years, we have kept the Foundation’s roots deep in the music industry and hundreds of volunteers have worked passionately with our staff to raise more than $270 million for leukemia, cancer and AIDS research which has been successfully leveraged into several billion dollars in additional funding from larger funding sources. We are proud of our long history and our reputation for innovation in fundraising and the research we support.

Tony Martell, Founder and Chairman

The Foundation issued a statement on Monday:

The T.J. Martell Foundation mourns the loss of our beloved founder and friend, Tony Martell, who passed away Sunday, November 27th, 2016 at the age of 90. Tony taught us all how to keep fighting for what we believe in and to do what we can to help others in need. He never gave up on his fight to find a cure for cancer and through his passion, energy and perseverance the T.J. Martell Foundation has supported flagship hospitals in the United States and raised over $270 million for leukemia, cancer and AIDS research. Tony's smile, energy and incredible devotion will be missed beyond words. We will work even harder now to keep his memory and dream alive and one day finding a cure for the diseases that he spent his life fighting. In honor of his son T.J. for whom the foundation is named, we celebrate the life of Tony Martell whose work saved lives, provided patients with innovative treatments and gave thousands of people hope. We will miss you Tony.

Among the albums on which Tony Martell was executive producer:
  • The Brothers: Isley - Isley Brothers
  • Givin' it Back - Isley Brothers
  • Back Stabbers - O'Jays
  • Live at Carnegie Hall - Bill Withers
  • Swans Against the Sun - Michael Martin Murphey
  • Havana Candy - Patti Austin
  • Texas Flood - Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble 
  • Couldn't Stand the Weather - Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble 

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