(CBS News)–Andre Harrell, the influential R&B producer who founded Uptown Records and discovered Sean “Diddy” Combs, has died, Universal Music Group confirmed to CBS News. He was 59.
“UMG and the entire music industry have lost a truly visionary member of our community and we extend our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones,” the record label said in a statement.
His ex-wife, Wendy Credle, told The New York Times the cause of death was heart failure.
Some of music’s biggest stars, including John Legend and his mentor, Russell Simmons, paid tribute to Harrell and his legacy on social media.
“RIP Andre Harrell. Whether we knew it or not, he had such a huge influence on the R&B/hip-hop my generation grew up loving. He signed and mentored so many great artists, made so much great music happen, helped shape the culture,” Legend wrote.
Usher posted a photo on Instagram with him, Harrell and Combs, writing “You were the beginning for so many and a genuine positive energy through it all … I salute you KING!”
Born in the Bronx, Harrell’s career started as part of the rap duo Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde in the early 1980s. According to Entertainment Tonight, in 1983 he teamed up with Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Records, working his way up the label. Harrell founded Uptown Records in 1986.
At Uptown Records, he hired Combs as an intern, later giving him his big break. Harrell also signed Mary J. Blige, among others. Combs was eventually fired from Uptown and went on to launch Bad Boy Records in 1993. The two later reconciled and remained longtime friends.
In 1995, Harrell was appointed chief executive officer of Motown. He was also a producer on films like “Strictly Business” and “Honey,” among others.
In December, BET announced it was creating a three-part scripted miniseries about Harrell’s life. BET said Saturday that it plans to continue to move forward with the miniseries, according to Variety.
First published on May 9, 2020 / 8:03 PM