Michael Brooks obituary | Music


My father, Michael Brooks, who has died aged 85, was a Grammy award-winning archivist, historian and producer who launched American roots music to a brand new era of listeners. He had a lifelong ardour for early jazz and blues, along with a data of elusive 78rpm recordings that bordered on the uncanny. “He’s like Merlin the wizard,” his fellow producer Steve Berkowitz instructed Billboard journal in 2004. “To attempt to discover an obscure grasp or acetate, you possibly can go to the vault or attempt the web. Or you possibly can simply go to Michael.”

He was born in Tooting, south London, and largely raised by his grandparents. However he discovered his non secular dwelling in New York and his inspiration within the music of Louis Armstrong and Billie Vacation. He barely knew his father, Alfred Brooks, who skipped city when he was 4. His mom, Maude (nee Buttle), then remarried and left to run a pub in north London. Michael attended Mitcham county grammar college however left with few {qualifications}. He would later recall tearing his remaining report into items exterior the varsity gates.

Music, although, was to offer his actual training. By his early teenagers he was already buying and selling jazz information and used the proceeds to complement his earnings throughout early stints as an promoting copywriter and a resort scout for Thomas Prepare dinner. By dint of ability and success, he spun a cherished pastime right into a profession that he cherished.

Adventurous by nature, he and his first spouse (and my mom), Stella (nee Hoye), moved to Manhattan in 1966, initially intending to remain for 3 months. For a number of years he labored within the advertising division at St Martin’s Press, the place he instructed the title for James Herriot’s All Creatures Nice and Small (his first suggestion, Sick Creatures Nice and Small, was rejected). He and Stella separated in 1974 and he married Pat Sweeting in 1982.

His large break within the enterprise got here when he caught the attention of John Hammond, the producer credited with discovering each Vacation and Bob Dylan. Michael served as his assistant from 1971 till Hammond’s retirement 5 years later, mastering the intricacies of the recording and restoration course of alongside the best way. Rising from Hammond’s workplace someday, he stumbled upon a younger hopeful named Bruce Springsteen ready to step inside and audition.

Michael labored as a reissue producer at CBS after which as an archivist and advisor at Sony Music in Manhattan – a task he was nonetheless filling, very fortunately, properly into his 80s. He received six Grammys in whole, together with prizes for reissues by his first loves, Vacation and Armstrong. In 2019, the Michael Brooks Assortment – his private archive of over 10,000 information – was acquired by the College of California Santa Barbara Performing Arts Library.

Born right into a rackety, working-class background, my father was self-taught and self-made; a discerning client of reports, politics and widespread tradition. Intimacy didn’t come simply to him. He regarded himself as a pure outsider. However his puckish darkish humour masked a love of fine firm and a deep-seated concern for the wellbeing of others. He was a person who would by no means knowingly under-tip a waiter, or go a beggar on the road with out emptying his pockets. He by no means discovered to drive, partly as a result of he appreciated to stroll. The world is rather less fascinating with out him strolling by it.

He’s survived by Pat, me and his grandchildren, Ada and Ira.

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