Jules I. Kurz, a veteran music industry lawyer, passed away from natural causes on June 30, 2013 in Naples, Florida. He was 82.
At the Naples, Fla. memorial for Kurz, Suzan J. Bader, president of DSM Producer Inc., remembered Kurz as the “Clarence Darrow of the entertainment industry,” according to a copy of her comments supplied to Billboard.
“He was a classic music industry character who was really bright and a great advocate for his clients,” says A2IM president Rich Bengloff, who often worked with Kurz when the lawyer represented Roadrunner, which was distributed by RED where the trade association executive used to be the CFO.
Kurz was born in New York City in 1931 and grew up in Far Rockaway. After serving a two-year hitch in the U.S. army, he attended Syracuse University and NYU Law School, and got his first industry job at Warner Bros. before moving onto Hill & Range Music Publishing. During his career, Kurz also had stints at the British music publishing firm Intersong; Pickwick, the budget record label and distributor; and Polydor, the major that was long ago swallowed by Universal Music Group. Then, he established a private practice, where he negotiated deals for Bruce Springsteen, Ozzy Osbourne and Golden Earring, according to industry executives who knew him.
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He also represented many independent labels, including Next Plateau and Roadrunner, the latter of which he was involved in many of that label's classic signings, including Sepultura, Biohazard, and Type O Negative.
Besides acting as a legal representative for artists and indie labels, Kurz also tried his hand at management, signing on Grace Jones in the early days of her career, handling that responsibility from about 1977 through 1980, according to Holly Lane, a longtime industry executive who worked with Kurz at various points in their careers. In fact, at one of those junctures, both were principals and executives with Mechanic Records, which was distributed through the MCA family.
"Jules Kurz was a monumental man of music when the industry was at its height,“ says Lane, who described Kurz as a generous, kind man and a mentor.
“Jules helped to expand the reach of Warner/Chappell Music worldwide; he worked with Ethyl Gabriel at RCA on Elvis Presley’s catalog; he helped the Boss [Bruce Springsteen] in England when his copyright had been stolen," Bader said at the Naples memorial. "We were blessed to have known Jules and to have been a part of his life."
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According to Lane, Kurz like to quote a passage from Robert Frost”s “Two Tramps In Mud Time,” to describe how much he enjoyed his work:
"My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight."
Friends are planning a New York memorial gathering in his honor on Monday, August 5 at 6 p.m. at Tavern 29, on the second floor at 47 E. 29th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues, New York, NY 10016. For more information contact Lane at email@example.com.
Kurz is survived by Anne, his wife of 55 years; his brother Alan; his son Gary; his daughter Helene Boris; and three grandchildren.
Pictured below (from left): Atlantic Records' Jerry Wexler, Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger, actor Richard Harris, Atlantic's Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic's Arif Mardin and Jules Kurz presumed to be at MIDEM in the 1970s.