Peter J. Levinson dies at 74

PR exec, jazz expert was prominent music biographer

Peter J. Levinson, a veteran music public relations executive and an expert on jazz, died Oct. 21 of head injuries after a fall in his Malibu home. He was 74.

For nearly two years, Levinson had suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease, which had robbed him of his ability to speak. However, with the aid of a talking computer, he was able to carry on business as usual until the day he died.

In recent years, Levinson had become one of the industry's most prominent biographers of major figures in the music field. He had just completed his fifth book, a study of Fred Astaire that is due out in March. Earlier works included biographies of Harry James, Nelson Riddle and Tommy Dorsey.

Levinson got his start at Columbia Records in the late 1950s. He later became an agent at MCA and an executive with John Springer Associates before forming his own Peter Levinson Communications.

At PLC, his clients included Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Charlie Byrd, Benny Carter, Rosemary Clooney, Chick Corea, Phyllis Diller, Art Garfunkel, Stan Getz, Woody Herman, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Frank Langella, Peggy Lee, Jack Lemmon, Wynton Marsalis, Johnny Mathis, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Artie Shaw and Mel Torme.

At Springer Associates, he worked with Barbara Walters, Roger Williams, Tony Randall, Eddy Arnold, Robert Ryan, Joel Grey and others and on the films "Z" (1969), "Fiddler on the Roof" (1971) and the Clint Eastwood "spaghetti westerns." His television and film work included spearheading the 1978 launch of CBS' "Dallas."

Among Levinson's survivors is his wife of 25 years, former "60 Minutes" producer Grace Diekhaus.
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