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Passings: Robert Arthur, Music Director For "The Ed Sullivan Show"

by VVN Music

Robert Arthur, the Music Director for The Ed Sullivan Show from the 50's to the 70's, during a time when numerous acts made major appearances on the program, died on January 21 at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 89.

Born and raised on Long Island, Arthur attended Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, receiving degrees in economics and Spanish but he used his musical background to work professionally as an accompanist and arranger.

After serving in the Army during the Korean War, he was hired to be an assistant on the Sullivan Show and the Jackie Gleason Show, eventually becoming the music director for Sullivan doing all behind-the-scenes work for the musical guests.

Among those duties was ensuring that each act met the standards set forth by Sullivan who was not a fan of popular music.  He told Colgate's alumni paper in 2014 that it was at his instance that the Beatles be allowed to use microphones on stands instead of Sullivan's preferred boom mikes to limit the amount of screaming heard from the audience. "He finally relented after the technical people backed me up, and we used stand mikes and that’s how America heard the words to ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand.’"

Arthur was credited with many other famous Sullivan moments including convincing Diana Ross to sing "standards", including Broadway songs, instead of just her pop hits.  He also was the person that came up with the change of the Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together" to a tamer (and Sullivan friendly) "Let's Spend Some Time Together".

After Sullivan went off the air in 1971, Arthur moved on to Dick Clark Productions where he was instrumental in developing the original American Music Awards.

He later worked with artists like Michael Jackson to produce special award show segments for their music.

In more recent years, he composed music in the style of popular standards and recorded the music, publishing it via CD Baby.