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Skip Miller, who helmed two of the music industry’s most prestigious labels and worked with artists including Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder and Roy Hargrove, died Sept. 4 of cardiac arrest at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 62.
Miller served as president of Motown, capping a 17-year stint at the label, worked for nearly a decade at RCA Records and headed Lion Tracks, where he managed Richie and planned world tours, album releases and merchandising for the singer.
Miller, a New York native who graduated from Hofstra University with a degree in chemistry and was drafted by the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, started at Motown in 1971. There he worked with such stellar artists as Richie, Wonder, Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross and won the RIAA’s Music Executive of the Year award in 1980.
Miller was the last Motown president to work under Berry Gordy, who sold his company to MCA in 1988.
After the sale, Miller moved to RCA Records to fill the new position of senior vp of black, jazz and progressive music. He discovered, developed and brought platinum-selling artists such as SWV, Me Phi Me and Stacy Earl to the forefront and worked closely with Clive Calder and Barry Weiss to transition their production deal into what was to become Jive Records/Zomba.
Miller’s input and work with Jive artists DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (Will Smith), Kool Moe Dee, Too Short and KRS-1 contributed to music’s “rap explosion.”
At RCA, Miller also worked with Novus/Bluebird president Steve Backer and contributed to the success of jazz greats Hargrove, Marcus Roberts, Carmen McCrae and John Pizzarelli. He also signed Steve Rifkind’s LOUD Records to the RCA label and worked with Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep.
In 1998, Miller became president of Lion Tracks. Six years later, he opened Panda Entertainment Group, a talent management company specializing in artist development, music consulting and production. Richie, R. Kelly, Nathan Stone and Megan Peeler were among the songwriters with whom he worked.
Survivors include his wife KC (Karen) Miller; two sons, Justin and Dominic Miller; and his mother, Sybil Levy Blum. A memorial service will be held on Monday at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.
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