NEW YORK (AP) – Ken Kragen, a leading entertainment producer, manager and philanthropist who turned to clients such as Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers to help organize the 1985 charity single “We Are the World” is dead. He was 85 years old.
Kragen died of natural causes at his Los Angeles home on Tuesday, according to a statement released by his family.
“Ken worked tirelessly for the artists he represented, but what I liked most about him, aside from the essence of his mind, was that he understood in 360 degrees that the combination of art and commerce could be used to make the world a better place, “Quincy Jones, who produced” We Are the World “tweeted this week.
“As one of the original organizing partners of ‘We Are the World’, without Ken’s specific expertise and skills, we may never have had the enormous global impact that we have had,” Jones tweeted.
Kragen was a Harvard Business School graduate whose other credits included producing the TV dramas “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” and “The Gambler” starring Rogers. His most famous project began at the end of 1984 with a phone call from Harry Belafonte, anxious to raise funds for the starving of Africa, especially in Ethiopia, where a famine had killed millions. The British recording “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, Which starred George Michael, Bono and many others, had been a major success, and Belafonte wanted to organize an American effort.
He first contacted Kragen, whom he didn’t even know.
“I needed a young generation of artists, those who are currently at the top of the charts: Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers and Cyndi Lauper. When I looked at the management of most of these artists, I kept seeing the same name: Ken Kragen, ”Belafonte wrote in his memoir“ My Song, ”published in 2011.
Kragen was hesitant at first, Belafonte wrote, but called Richie, who said yes. Rogers said the same, as did Jones and dozens of others, including Jackson, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Wonder. “We Are the World,” co-written by Jackson and Richie, has sold tens of millions of copies and won Grammys for record and song of the year. Kragen was later awarded a United Nations Peace Medal.
Kragen has also directed Trisha Yearwood, the Bee Gees, and Olivia Newton-John, among others. His other charities included the “Hands Across America” fundraiser from 1985, when a human channel across the country featured everyone from President Ronald Reagan to Yoko Ono to Robin Williams.
Kragen’s survivors include his wife, actress Cathy Worthington; their daughter, cinematographer Emma Kragen; and her husband, director / producer Zach Marion.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.