4 January 1926
|Died||21 July 2007 81) (aged|
|Education||Royal College of Music|
|Known for||Founder of Jet Records|
(m. 1950;died 1999)
|Children||2, including Sharon Osbourne|
Don Arden (born Harry Levy; 4 January 1926 – 21 July 2007) was an English music manager, agent, and businessman. He managed the careers of rock acts such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Air Supply, Small Faces, The Move, Black Sabbath and Electric Light Orchestra.
He gained a reputation in Britain for his aggressive, sometimes illegal business tactics, which led to his being called "Mr Big", the "Yiddish Godfather" and the "Meyer Lansky of Pop".
He was married to Hope Shaw, a former ballet dancer/teacher, who died in 1999.He was the father of David Levy and Sharon Osbourne.
Arden's success story turned sour when his violent 'negotiating' methods and questionable accounting caught up with him, and he became estranged from members of his own family.
Born into a Jewish family in Cheetham Hill, Manchester.Arden began his show business career when he was just 13 years old as a singer and stand-up comic after briefly attending the Royal College of Music and in 1944 changed his name from Harry Levy to Don Arden. After being demobilised from the British Army at the end of World War II, Arden returned to civilian life to develop his show business career from 1946 to 1953.
Arden worked as an entertainer on the British variety circuit. He impersonated singers such as Enrico Caruso and film actors known for gangster roles, such as Edward G. Robinson and George Raft. On weekends, Yiddish-speaking Arden impressed Jewish audiences with his Al Jolson routine. One of his record releases was his version of "Blue Suede Shoes" on the Embassy label, on which he tried to impersonate Elvis. In 1954, he became a showbiz agent after realising it would be more profitable.He began his career organising Hebrew folk song contests, then started putting together his own shows.
Arden launched his career as a manager when he signed up American rock 'n' roller Gene Vincent in 1960, taking over from John Schatt. Arden could not control Vincent's compulsive alcoholism and the relationship ended when Vincent reportedly pulled a knife on his manager.For a short period of time in the early 1960s, he worked with the British singer Elkie Brooks at the start of her career.
During 1964, Arden moved into beat group pop management with The Nashville Teens, who secured chart hits with "Tobacco Road", "Google Eye" and "Find My Way Back Home". According to Johnny Rogan's book Starmakers & Svengalis, the group's earnings from those hits was £3,513. When group member John Hawken confronted Arden about some confusion over monies to be collected, his manager told him: "I have the strength of 10 men in these hands" and threatened to throw him from an office window.
In 1965, Arden met aspiring rock band Small Faces in his office in Carnaby Street. Half an hour later, he had signed them up. Arden was immediately struck by the potential of Small Faces: "I thought at that time, on the first hearing, I thought it was the best band in the world". Kenney Jones, Small Faces' drummer, said: "He was kind of a Jewish teddy bear I suppose. You liked him immediately because he was enthusiastic and he talked about what he could do and what he couldn't do and whenever he said – 'I'll do this, I'll do that' – he did and it came true."The band's debut single, "Whatcha Gonna Do About It", was ushered into the hit parade by "chart-fixing", which cost Arden £12,000. Arden denied it was cheating: "I had a saying, you can't polish a turd. In other words, if the record's no good to begin with it still won't be any good after you've wasted your time and money getting it played".
In 1966, Arden and a squad of "minders" turned up at impresario Robert Stigwood's office to "teach him a lesson" for daring to discuss a change of management with Small Faces,which became one of the most notorious incidents from the 1960s British pop business. Arden reportedly threatened to throw Stigwood out of the window if he ever interfered with his business again.
The band was never entirely convinced that Arden had paid them everything he owed them. Kenney Jones has mixed memories of the band's stormy relationship with Arden:
Without Don, the Small Faces may not have existed, without his sort of vision at that time, be it short-lived or what. The fact is we became known and we got a break through Don. So if you think of it like that and I think all of us are prepared to swallow what went on, leave it, fine, it's history. We all learned from each other, he gave us our first break, fine, fair enough, you know, leave it. I've got good and bad memories but mainly I think of Don with affection, surprisingly enough.
Arden tried to rekindle his former glories as a family entertainer by releasing a single of his own in 1967: "Sunrise Sunset", from the musical Fiddler on the Roof , but it failed to chart. Arden returned to music management in 1968 when he signed The Move. He struck gold when two groups formed by ex-Move members, ELO and Wizzard (1972), started having international hits: Wizzard with "See My Baby Jive" and "Angel Fingers" (1973), and ELO with "10538 Overture" (1972) and "Roll Over Beethoven" (1973). With later albums like Out of the Blue (1977) and Discovery (1979), ELO became a prominent act.
In 1973, Arden took over management of singer-songwriter Lynsey de Paul. In the following year, she provided the first hit on his new Jet label, "No Honestly", which was also the theme tune to a hit ITV comedy No, Honestly . By 1976, Arden was embroiled in a lawsuit with the distraught singer over what she claimed was late payment of money owed to her. De Paul commented:
It was a time in my life that I'll never forget and I'll never forgive him. And if anybody was near suicide, and if ever I was near, it was then, because it was awful.
She eventually reached a settlement with Arden in 1978. He brought his son David and daughter Sharon into the business, intending to build an Arden showbiz dynasty.
In 1979, one of Arden's successes, Black Sabbath, sacked their vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. Sharon entered into a relationship with Osbourne, and took over his management from her father.Arden was livid. Reportedly, the next time Sharon visited Don, his vicious pet dogs savaged her. She was pregnant at the time and lost the child. Sharon eventually married Osbourne and had no contact with her father for 20 years.
In 1979, investigative reporter Roger Cook used the dispute with Lynsey de Paul to probe into Arden's controversial management style on BBC Radio 4's Checkpoint programme. That proved to be a colourful encounter. "When you fight the champion you go 15 rounds, you've got to be prepared to go the whole way", Arden tells Cook. "I'll take you with one hand strapped up my arse. You're not a man, you're a creep." Arden threatened to break the neck of anyone who talked to Cook in his on-air interview.
From the late 1970s into the early 1980s, Arden enjoyed the high-rolling lifestyle of a top music mogul. In the mid-1980s, he bought Portland Recording Studios (formerly IBC Studios) from Chas Chandler and installed his son David as manager. The studio's equipment was very outdated by that time, and much of the income was being generated by another company known as RadioTracks, which ran half the facility, and by George Peckham (Porky Prime Cuts), a well-known cutting engineer, whose cutting rooms were on the ground floor at the back of the building.Arden had acquired shares in RadioTracks through buying out Chandler without the knowledge of the other directors.
In 1986, Arden was arrested for kidnapping and torturing a Jet records accountant named Harshad Patel, whom Arden believed had been embezzling money.Arden's son, known legally as 'David Levy', appeared at the Old Bailey in 1986 for his role in the matter. The incident occurred at the offices at 35 Portland Place. Convicted, Levy spent several months in an open prison. Arden, tried separately on related charges, was acquitted.
The drawn-out dispute meant Arden was unable to attend to business, and legal costs proved a fatal strain on Jet Records, which collapsed. Portland Recording Studios were considerably in arrears with rent to the Prudential, which owned the building at Portland Place, close to the BBC's Broadcasting House. Eventually, the Prudential evicted Jet Records.
From 1986 to the mid-1990s, Arden shuttled between his homes in Beverly Hills and Parkside in Wimbledon, London.
In 2001 Sharon Osborne told The Guardian : "The best lesson I ever had was watching him fuck his business up. He taught me everything not to do. My father's never even seen any of my three kids and, as far as I'm concerned, he never will."Later the same year, at Ozzy's insistence, Sharon and Arden finally reconciled, with Arden taking a walk-on role in the successful reality TV show The Osbournes in 2002. He also met his grandchildren Jack and Kelly for the first time.
In August 2004, Sharon Osbourne stated her father had Alzheimer's disease. A "tell all" biography about Arden's life, entitled Mr Big, was published in 2007, shortly before Arden's death in Los Angeles on 21 July 2007. Sharon Osbourne paid for her father's care in the last years of his life.He was buried in Agecroft Jewish Cemetery, Langley Road, Pendlebury, in Salford on 25 July 2007.
On 29 October 2007, a memorial headstone was unveiled at Agecroft Jewish Cemetery by his sister Eileen (Somers), daughter Sharon Osbourne, her son Jack Osbourne and nephew and niece Danny Somers and Cathy Cowan. One line on the inscription reads: "His beautiful voice will sing in our hearts forever. Shalom". Later in the morning a plaque was unveiled at Higher Crumpsall Synagogue, Cheetham Hill, Manchester, with the addition of the words "It all started here" with a line of musical notes. That refers to the time when Arden, then Harry Levy, sang in the synagogue choir as a very young man.
On 8 September 2007, a commemorative plaque dedicated to Don Arden and Small Faces was unveiled at 52–55 Carnaby Street, London, Arden's former offices. Kenney Jones, ex-drummer of Small Faces, said: "To honour the Small Faces after all these years is a terrific achievement. I only wish that Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane and the late Don Arden were here to enjoy this moment with me".
Black Sabbath were an English rock band formed in Birmingham in 1968 by guitarist Tony Iommi, drummer Bill Ward, bassist Geezer Butler and vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. They are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. The band helped define the genre with releases such as Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970), and Master of Reality (1971). The band had multiple line-up changes following Osbourne's departure in 1979, with Iommi being the only constant member throughout its history.
John Michael "Ozzy" Osbourne is an English singer, songwriter, and television personality. He rose to prominence during the 1970s as the lead vocalist of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath, during which period he adopted the nickname "Prince of Darkness".
Sharon Rachel Osbourne is a British-American television personality, music manager, and author. She is married to heavy metal singer-songwriter Ozzy Osbourne and came to public prominence after appearing on The Osbournes (2002–2005), a reality television show that aired on MTV, which followed her family's daily life. Osbourne later became a talent show judge on television shows, such as The X Factor and America's Got Talent (2007–2012).
The Osbournes is an American reality television program featuring the domestic life of heavy metal singer Ozzy Osbourne and his family—his wife Sharon, their daughter Kelly, and their son Jack. The series premiered on MTV on March 5, 2002, and, in its first season, was cited as the most-viewed series ever on MTV. The final episode aired on March 21, 2005.
Diary of a Madman is the second studio album by British heavy metal vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. It was released on 7 November 1981, and re-issued on CD on 22 August 1995. This is the last Osbourne studio album to feature guitarist Randy Rhoads and drummer Lee Kerslake. An altered version appeared in 2002 with the original bass and drum parts removed and re-recorded. In 2011, a Deluxe 30th Anniversary Edition was released with all original parts restored. To date, the album has sold over 3 million copies worldwide.
Randall William Rhoads was an American heavy metal guitarist who played with Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne.
Speak of the Devil is a live album by English heavy metal vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, released on 27 November 1982. It is a double album consisting entirely of live renditions of songs originally recorded by Osbourne's previous band Black Sabbath. The album was entitled Talk of the Devil in the UK, that being the more commonly expressed idiom there.
Jack Joseph Osbourne is an English media personality with dual American and British citizenship. The son of heavy metal singer Ozzy Osbourne, he starred on MTV's reality series The Osbournes (2002–2005), along with his father, mother Sharon, and sister Kelly. Osbourne has since pursued a career as a fitness and travel reporter, presenting shows such as Jack Osbourne: Adrenaline Junkie (2005–2009) and BBC's Saving Planet Earth (2007). In 2016, he and his father Ozzy travelled the world in the History Channel reality series Ozzy & Jack's World Detour.
Ozzfest was an annual music festival tour of the United States and sometimes Europe and later Japan, featuring performances by many heavy metal and hard rock musical groups. It was founded by Sharon Osbourne and her husband Ozzy Osbourne, both of whom also organised each yearly tour with their son Jack Osbourne, and was held almost annually between 1996 and 2018. The Ozzfest tour featured bands of a variety of genres within heavy metal and hard rock, including alternative metal, thrash metal, industrial metal, metalcore, hardcore punk, deathcore, nu metal, death metal, post-hardcore, gothic metal and black metal. Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath played the tour several times over the years.
Born Again is the eleventh studio album by English heavy metal band Black Sabbath. Released in August 1983, it is the only album the group recorded with lead vocalist Ian Gillan, best known for his work with Deep Purple. It was also the last Black Sabbath album for nine years to feature original bassist Geezer Butler and the last to feature original drummer Bill Ward, though Ward did record a studio track with the band fifteen years later on their 1998 live album Reunion. The album has received mixed reviews from critics, but was a commercial success upon its 1983 release, reaching No. 4 in the UK charts. The album also hit the top 40 in the United States.
Ozzmosis is the seventh solo studio album by English heavy metal musician Ozzy Osbourne. Recorded in Paris and New York with producer Michael Beinhorn, it was released on 23 October 1995 by Epic Records. The album reached number 22 on the UK Albums Chart and number four on the US Billboard 200. "Perry Mason", "See You on the Other Side" and "I Just Want You" were released as singles.
Jet Records was a British record label started by Don Arden in 1974, featuring musicians such as Lynsey de Paul, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Roy Wood, Gary Moore, Ozzy Osbourne, Alan Price, Adrian Gurvitz, Riot and Magnum.
Bark at the Moon is the third studio album by British heavy metal vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, originally released on 15 November 1983. The album marks Ozzy's change to a synth infused pop-metal sound, with both its "sonic production, and in Ozzy's imaging".
John Rogan was a British author of Irish descent best known for his books about music and popular culture. He wrote influential biographies of the Byrds, Neil Young, the Smiths, Van Morrison and Ray Davies. His writing was characterised by "an almost neurotic attention to detail", epic length and an ambivalent, sometimes positive and sometimes hostile response, from the subjects of his biographies.
"Suicide Solution" is a song performed by heavy metal vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, which appears on his 1980 album Blizzard of Ozz.
Robert Sarzo, nicknamed The VuDu Man is a Cuban-American guitarist. His career has spanned 40 years. He has worked with an array of notable and iconic people in the entertainment industry. He was hired by Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, as the original replacement for Randy Rhoads. Robert never went on tour with Ozzy because Jet Records' Don Arden, also Sharon's father, had hired a different guitarist, Bernie Tormé, without telling anyone.
Aimee Rachel Osbourne is an English actress and singer. She is the eldest daughter of Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. While her siblings Jack and Kelly achieved pop culture fame for appearing in the family's MTV reality series The Osbournes, Aimée declined to appear on the show, feeling that doing so would typecast her and affect her musical career. She has expressed discomfort with some of her parents' behaviour on television.
The No More Tours Tour was the first farewell tour by British heavy metal singer Ozzy Osbourne.
"Under the Graveyard" is a song by English heavy metal musician Ozzy Osbourne. Written and produced with Andrew Watt, it was released as the vocalist's first single in nine years on 8 November 2019. The song was released as the lead single of, and packaged with, Osbourne's twelfth studio album Ordinary Man in 2020, which was his first album since Scream in 2010. The song features Watt on guitar, Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. The song reached number one on the US Mainstream Rock chart in December 2019. A music video for the song, which was teased on Osbourne's official Twitter, was released on 19 December 2019. The song has been described as a "massive", "booming", "searing" and "epic" power ballad by Music Mayhem, Billboard, Revolver and Ghost Cult magazines, respectively.
Arden gave up performing to become an agent for more money
Arden states chart fixing not cheating
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