Walter Yetnikoff, Eagles, Chris Douridas – Deadline
Sic transit gloria means “thus passes the worldly glory” and is used to recall the transient nature of earthly life and honors.
Former CBS Records / Sony Music director Walter Yetnikoff passed away earlier this week at the age of 87 as a symbol of that ancient saying. While his death did not go entirely unnoticed, it was not commensurate with the accomplishments of a man who played such a dominant role in popular culture from 1975 to 1990.
For those unfamiliar with him, Yetnikoff was president / CEO of CBS Records, which became Sony Music in large part thanks to his initiatives. He has worked with artists such as Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Barbra Streisand, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Public Enemy – the list goes on, all part of the explosive growth of music at the time as ‘she was riding the CD boom and the MTV wave. .
He was widely regarded as the most powerful ruler in the recording industry – until he wasn’t.
It was interesting to read the obituaries this week, as comments poured in, some of them coming from people who contributed to Yetnikoff’s final impeachment through their disavowal of his influence. He was never liked in the industry, but many feared him, and perhaps that is one of the reasons he rose so high and fell so far.
After Sony, Yetnikoff tried to re-enter the music business with his own label, but eventually gave up after little impact. Instead, he opted for a third act as a counselor to people with addiction issues, perhaps finding in those moments some soul redemption for previous excesses.
It really was a time when the worries of the world passed for him, and perhaps that’s a good thing to remember for today’s executives who may be on a similar path. As the poet Shelley once remarked, “the lonely, flat sands stretch out into the distance.”
Douridas is long remembered as the host of Morning Becomes Eclectic for KCRW in the 1990s.