Today (August 27th) marks the 51st anniversary of the death of the Beatles‘ manager Brian Epstein. Epstein, who died of an accidental drug overdose at the age of 34, literally groomed the group from a scruffy, leather clad, bar band into the most successful and influential musicians of their time. In April 2014, Epstein was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Epstein, who ran the music division of his parents’ Liverpool department store, discovered the band in late 1961 and in just over six months had secured them their record deal with EMI Records. During his six years managing the band, Epstein’s office supervised all of their personal and professional cares, including tour schedules, police security, personal mortgages, honeymoons, vacations, publicity, and much more. Epstein served as the best man to John Lennon and Ringo Starr at their weddings, and at George Harrison‘s wedding, he shared best man duties withPaul McCartney. In 1963, John and Cynthia Lennon named Epstein the godfather to their only child, Julian Lennon.
On top of dealing with the Beatles, Epstein’s NEMS Enterprises managed a stable of Liverpool stars, including Gerry & The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, and Cilla Black, among others. In later years, Epstein had a hand in the careers of the Bee Gees and Cream, via a short-lived partnership with Robert Stigwood.
Epstein was far from a perfect businessman, losing the group millions of dollars in a U.S. company producing Beatles merchandising. Although in recent years much has been written about Epstein’s failings in the financial aspects of the Beatles’ career, it should be noted that, apart from Elvis Presley, at the time there had been no barometer as to how to manage a pop group. Epstein and the Beatles were literally in uncharted waters as they helped create rock as a new industry. Despite the barriers that Epstein broke in terms of rock management, merchandising, and touring — not to mention actually DISCOVERING THE BEATLES — in the quarter century since it’s come into being, he has yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
His personal life, which included bouts of depression over being gay, led to his growing dependence on alcohol and prescription medications. At the time of his death, he was afraid that the Beatles would not re-sign him as their manager when his contract was up later that year. In recent years McCartney has stated that the Beatles would have kept Epstein on, but would have reduced his 20 percent managerial fee.
After the Beatles’ breakup, all four members stated that Epstein’s death was the first crack in the group’s foundation, and helped lead to their eventual split in 1970.