Bob Krasnow, former chairman of Elektra Records, founder of Blue Thumb Records, and co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, died on December 11, 2016. He’s the one who signed Tracy Chapman at Elektra in 1987.
The Billboard article published yesterday cites Charles Koppelman “who signed Chapman to his production company [SBK] and brought her to Elektra in the mid 1980s: ‘The first time I played Tracy Chapman in demo form, [Krasnow] got it instantly, and that’s the reason I signed her to Elektra.'”
If Bob Krasnow hadn’t signed Tracy, another record company would certainly have signed her as well, but would the story have been the same? Not sure, Elektra Records was probably the best record company she could ever be signed in the late 80’s.
Charles Koppelman said to Tina Clarke for Music Express in July 1988: “(…) I felt that Elektra was the perfect label for Tracy. It’s kind of a boutique label. It doesn’t have a big roster and the company is dedicated to artistry. Bob Krasnow, the label president, is a very creative individual. I felt if his enthusiasm was equal to mine that the combination of SBK and Elektra would give Tracy the best opportunity to be successful. The thing that I look for is focus. If a label president can get his company to focus on a specific artist, no matter what kind of music that artist is playing, then that artist has an opportunity to be heard and be successful, if that artist is talented enough.”
Bob Krasnow was convinced Tracy Chapman could find a big audience immediately. To the L.A. Times in december 1988, he said: “I think people are looking for new voices and Tracy is a voice that seems right for these times. (…) Just look around us today and see what’s going on from the board rooms to the streets . . . a lot of inequities in life today. When someone can (point them out) in a song or any kind of a story, that has got to touch people.”
During the Eighties, and despite an era where Pop music and MTV seemed to rule the music industry, Bob Krasnow felt that there was a return of the ’60s spirit in pop : “I think we’ve finally got to the other side of the so-called disco age,” said Krasnow to L.A. Times in November 1988. “The point where artists like Tracy and bands like 10,000 Maniacs, the Sugarcubes, Hothouse Flowers . . . come together thematically is that they talk about socially relevant issues. I saw an article in a Miami paper earlier this year and the reviewer said something about the new Talking Heads album that kind of stuck with me . . . that it’s possible with the album to dance and think at the same thing. To me, it’s a good analysis of what records can be today–records that you can not only enjoy, but which can stimulate your feelings on a lot of different levels. As a ’60s person, that’s very gratifying.”
Not only he signed Tracy Chapman, but also major acts like 10,000 Maniacs, The Cure, The Pixies, The Sugarcubes (Bjork’s first band), Metallica, Anita Baker, Motley Crue… From this list, you can see that lots of them grew sufficiently in artistry and influence to rank with the greats in Rock history. Without Bob Krasnow, some of them might have never reached an international audience. May he rest in peace, we send our deepest condolences to his family .