Veteran West coast music executive Jerry Heller was laid to rest today (September 7), which ironically is Eazy-E’s birthday.
Heller was laid to rest in a service in San Fernando, where family friends and others paid their finalist respects.
No members N.W.A. attended the services, which was held on what would have been Eazy’s 52nd birthday.
Read Jerry Heller’s obituary below:
Jerry Heller, the music executive famous for managing the legendary rap group NWA, passed away on September 2, 2016.
He was 75 years old.
Together, with the late rapper Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, the two formed Ruthless Records.
With Heller and Wright as equal partners, Ruthless became the first entirely black-owned record company to release gold, platinum and multi-platinum rap albums.
Eazy-E was the founding member the group NWA, which rose to fame with members Dr. Dre (Andre Young), DJ Ren (Lorenzo Patterson), DJ Yella (Antoine Carraby), and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson).
NWA became famous after the release their highly publicized 1988 album, Straight Outta Compton. It was followed by the release Wright’s debut solo album, Eazy-Duz-It.
Compton was now an international household name.
In addition to NWA and Eazy-E, among the labels’ many other artists, were HWA and the Grammy-winning Bone Thugs-N- Harmony.
Ruthless also signed will.i.am. The group he formed was called the Atban Klann. Their completed album was never released by Ruthless, because Wright’s death.
Three years later, will.i.am achieved fame, with his reformed group, the Black Eyed Peas, released by Interscope Records.
The success Ruthless Records inspired fans around the world, spawning the careers future artists.
Heller ten referred to NWA’s Straight Outta Compton, as “the most important albums the twentieth century.”
Music industry executive Irving Azf, who represents major artists including the Eagles, knew Heller for decades.
Despite his many accomplishments, Azf is most known for managing the Eagles, for more than 40 years.
For the last three years, Azf has also served as CEO Azf MSG Entertainment, a business enterprise with Madison Square Garden.
Azf previously served as the CEO and Chairman Ticketmaster Entertainment, and was executive chairman Live Nation Entertainment.
With one the most enviable resumes in the music business, his credentials seem endless.
In a statement for this story, Azf stated Heller’s death, “Jerry was an incredible talent. And it was unfortunately ten unappreciated talent.”
Added Azf, “Jerry reinvented himself, over and over, and he was always on the cutting edge.”
Azf reflected, “Jerry, more than anyone, taught me to care about my artists.”
As far as Heller’s detractors, Azf stated, “As can be expected in Hollywood, and especially, in the rap business, there is a lot acting going on.
“I knew Jerry, as well as anyone. Many unfairly maligned him. I know the Hollywood version was not true. The negative depiction him was entirely fictional. However, those that really knew him, know otherwise.”
Because his fame, Heller was a public figure. Therefore, he had little, if any control the many fictitious claims made about him.
At the time his death, Heller was involved in a lawsuit that he filed last October, in response to the fictionalized characterization him, which was played by Paul Giamatti, in the 2015 theatrical release, “Straight Outta Compton.”
Despite the fictional biopic’s depictions, Heller had never been fired by Wright.
In real life, there were never any financial indiscretions on Hellers’ part. Nor was Heller ever sued by any artist during his long career. No financial indiscretions were ever found, or proven to exist when it came to Ruthless Records or Jerry Heller.
There were always rumors swirling about Wright and Heller. In an interview just before his death, in an interview, Wright commented on what he said was the most common misperception about Ruthless Records.
Clarifying that he, himself, owned the label, and that he had a fifty-fifty partnership with Heller, Wright stated, “I don’t work for Jerry, Jerry works for me.”
Although every major label had turned down signing NWA, and the group had sold only a few copies, Heller was so committed to Wright, and so solidified in his own faith when it came to the group’s talents, that he even took on the risk taking a mortgage out on his home, in order to finance NWA’s first tour.
Drama soon followed, which included a letter from the FBI, criticizing NWA’s lyrics, which strongly addressed inappropriate treatment young black males by police ficers.
In 1989, NWA publicist Phyllis Pollack and longtime music critic Dave Marsh penned a highly publicized cover story in the Village Voice, which attacked the FBI’s letter that threatened the constitutionally protected lyrics the group.
The resulting publicity drew even more attention to NWA.
Oprah Winfrey even dedicated an entire episode the Oprah Winfrey show to the discuss the article.
Heller brought in attorneys to defend the First Amendment rights his artists.
Clearly to all who knew Jerry Heller, Eazy-E was like a son to him. Heller, himself, ten used that terminology.
After the demise NWA, Dr. Dre produced a stable successful artists, including Snoop Dogg and Eminem.
With his branding the Beats Pill by Dr. Dre, he became hip-hop’s first billionaire.
Cube focused on predominately Hollywood comedy-based films.
Prior to working with NWA, Heller worked as a booking agent, and he managed artists.
It was Heller that first brought the multi-Grammy-winning artist Elton John to the United States, when he booked the British singer to perform his legendary American debut gig at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, in 1970.
Working as a booking agent and manager, Heller represented a roster artists that also included Pink Floyd, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, The Grass Roots, Journey, the late artists Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding, among many others.
Born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, after graduating high school, Heller moved to Los Angeles, and worked his way up in the music business.
Heller’s autobiography, Ruthless: A Memoir, was published in 2006, by Simon & Schuster-Simon Spotlight Entertainment.
Heller suffered a fatal heart attack, while drive. He was taken to Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, where he soon died.
Survivors include his cousin Gary Ballen, Kenneth Heller, Jerry’s younger brother and father Jerry’s nephew, Terry Heller, who is a restaurateur and real estate investor.
Terry Heller said his famous uncle, “To the world, they lost a legend. I lost a best friend.”
Heller was surrounded by family as he passed away.
Heller spent his final moments in the hospital, doing what he loved most, listening to Eazy’s-E’s music.
Terry Heller brought a CD player with Wright’s tracks, playing “Eazy-Duz- It,” “We Want Eazy,” “Still Talkin,” and “Boyz-N-the Hood,” as a final goodbye to a man that was loved by so many fans, and so many people in the music business.
Donations in memory Heller may be sent to the Grammy Foundation’s MusiCares.