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Tony Martell (1926 - 2016)

Getty Images for T.J. Martell / Photo by Paul Zimmerman

Tony Martell (1926 - 2016)

Tony Martell, a record label executive who signed the Electric Light Orchestra and Joan Jett and founded the T.J. Martell Foundation for leukemia research, died Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, according to multiple news sources. He was 90.

Martell died at his home in Madison, New Jersey.

Martell was a longtime major record label executive and A&R guy from the 1960s until the 1990s. He helped direct the career of the Isley Brothers and the O’Jays in the 1960s. He was the executive producer for albums by such artists as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Patti Austin, and George Benson.

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In the 1980s, Martell became the head of CBS Associated Records. He signed the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Electric Light Orchestra, and Joan Jett. He also worked with Ozzy Osbourne during that time.

Martell launched the T.J. Martell Foundation in 1975 as a promise to his 19-year-old son T.J., who died two years after being diagnosed with leukemia.

The foundation became the music industry's largest for leukemia, cancer, and AIDS research. The organization has raised over $200 million for research into cures for these diseases.

The foundation’s annual ceremony is a major event in the music industry. Martell spoke at the organization's 2016 event in October saying that, "We have some big news tonight." He went on to say that leukemia is no longer the No. 1 killer among childhood diseases, thanks in part to the foundation's efforts.

After Martell's death, the organization’s website released a statement: "Tony's smile, energy, and incredible devotion will be missed beyond words. We will work even harder now to keep his memory and dream alive and one day finding a cure for the diseases that he spent his life fighting."

Grammy Award-winning songwriter Diane Warren tweeted, "RIP Tony Martell, a music man who made such a difference on this earth."

A daughter survives him. His wife, Vicky, died earlier this year.

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