Freddy Bienstock: Music publisher whose portfolio encompassed acts as diverse as Cliff Richard and James Brown

One of the bigger lions in the international music industry jungle, Freddy Bienstock, who has died aged 86, was the mainstay of Carlin Songs, whose roster of pop talent facilitated its growth as a major publishing concern, occupying several addresses in New York alone, and emerging as the second largest UK company in its field. A portfolio of over 100,000 compositions spanned a century of copyrights, covering all stylistic waterfronts.

Bienstock was not, however, born into showbusiness, and it was not considered a feasible vocation by his Jewish family, who moved from Zurich to Vienna when he was three. Soon after Hitler’s seizure of Austria in 1938, he and his brother Johnny were sent to stay with an uncle in New Jersey, their parents joining them two years later, and settling in New York.

While he began his working life driving a van for a wholesale grocer, he came to know the complex mumbojumbo of music publishing lore on landing a post in 1943 as a junior stock controller at Chappell and Co., a leading conglomerate in Tin Pan Alley, then the storm centre of the Big Apple’s music trade. It was to be a moment of supreme satisfaction when, in 1984, he became Chappell’s chairman and majority stockholder.

Promoted to song-plugger, he placed Chappell product with Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and such bandleaders omnipresent in city centre clubland in the 1940s, and visited regional radio stations to ensure that the consequent discs were on playlists.

Yet, if pop was a commodity to be bought, sold and replaced when worn out, Bienstock was not deprecating about his knowledge and love of it – a virtue that impressed his cousins Julian and Jean Aberbach, proprietors of Hill and Range, who specialised in country and western.

Overseeing St. Louis Music, the partnership’s subsidiary division, he entered the orbit of Colonel Tom Parker, manager of Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow before devoting all his energies to Elvis Presley, whose early releases had not immediately excited Bienstock.

“I was not enamoured with rock ’n’ roll,” he confessed, “but I changed after a while. By listening to the songs that were submitted to me for Elvis, I soon had a good idea what he wanted.

I’d take the demos to Memphis, and have him select from them.” Among jobbing teams whose works he put before the King and other artists were Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett and, especially, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. Like Bienstock, they commuted to Times Square’s Brill Building, the songwriting “factory” where assembly-line pop was churned out for the masses.

As perhaps Presley’s closest adviser on repertoire, he would claim with quiet pride that “for the first 12 years of his career, Elvis wouldn’t look at a song unless I’d seen it already.” Independently of him, however, Presley discovered a 50-year-old Italian ballad, “O Sole Mio” – though he asked Bienstock to commission the writing of English lyrics to the melody. As “It’s Now Or Never”, it was a 1960 No 1.

By then, Bienstock was regarded as one of the industry’s most powerful moguls, a standing that had been enhanced by what some perceived to be a dynastic marriage to Miriam, daughter of Herb Abramson, cofounder of Atlantic Records. She was in the business herself, as would be her and Freddy’s children, Robert – and his older sister Caroline, after whom, in a fashion, Carlin was named when Bienstock bought and retitled London- based Belinda Music, another Hill and Range affiliate, in 1966.

For several years, he had been serving Britain’s Cliff Richard in much the same way as he had Presley, chiefly by providing domestic No 1s in “Travellin’ Light” and 1962’s “The Young Ones”, both from Tepper and Bennett. Nevertheless, when the Sixties started swinging, Bienstock’s administrative caress came to encompass Billy J.

Kramer, The Animals, The Kinks (whose “I Go To Sleep”, written by Ray Davies was, through Carlin, recorded by Peggy Lee) and further British Invasion chart contenders. Later, Carlin – winners of 10 consecutive annual Top Publisher awards in the UK trade periodical, Music Week – ministered likewise to the Move, Pentangle and Genesis.

Bienstock’s good fortune enabled him to leave Hill and Range to focus more exclusively on Carlin, and also to establish the Hudson Bay Music Company with Lieber and Stoller – a liaison that lasted until 1980 – and gain rights to the output of Bobby Darin, John Sebastian and Tim Hardin. His holdings were to extend to companies with James Brown, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and more outré singing composers such as the Los Angeles street busker Wild Man Fischer on their books, and controlling interests in Fiddler On The Roof, Cabaret, Godspell and later musicals that ran and ran on Broadway and in the West End, some of them being turned into movies.

In the 1970s, the Carlin empire expanded to Walt Disney soundtracks, and soul music wafting from Tamla Motown and, in trend-setting Philadelphia, Avco. The acquisition of the catalogues of nearly 200 North American writers – which contained “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, “As Time Goes By”, “Sweet Georgia Brown”, “Winter Wonderland”

and other standards – was, however, subject to seven years of litigation over rights issues, culminating in victory for Bienstock when the case reached the House of Lords.

With the turn of the decade, Bienstock allied with the estates of Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers to annex items by George M. Cohen, Cole Porter and Jim Steinman – who, with Carlin, was to amass wealth through selections on Meatloaf’s million- selling Bat Out Of Hell 2 album.

Further market triumphs for Carlin during this period included collections by U2, Duran Duran and Michael Jackson (most conspicuously, Thriller), and Whitney Houston’s version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”.

As well as an ear for even latter-day hits such as these, much of Bienstock’s success was because he was no grey eminence who preferred to distance himself from his clients. Indeed, up to his final illness, he cut an avuncular and approachable figure at Rock’n’ Roll Hall of Fame galas or conferences within Carlin’s offices in a Manhattan skyscraper or its tastefully decorated London headquarters up a spiral staircase in Chalk Farm.

Alan Clayson

Frederick Bienstock, music publisher: born Zurich 24 April 1923; married Miriam Abramson (two children); died New York 21 September 2009

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little