Elliot Roberts, A Champion Of Laurel Canyon Artists And Longtime Manager Of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Dies At 76

Elliot Roberts
Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images
– Elliot Roberts
Elliot Roberts attends the 2017 Personal Managers Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino on May 18, 2017 in Las Vegas.

Elliot Roberts, a legendary manager who was an early champion of many artists who populated L.A.’s Laurel Canyon neighborhoods and changed American pop music in the 1960s and ’70s, died Friday (June 21), a publicist for many of his clients confirmed.

Michael Jensen confirmed that Roberts died Friday morning, but the cause isn’t immediately known.

Roberts led Lookout Management and long represented Neil Young and Stephen Stills, as well as other onetime denizens of the canyon who eventually defined the musical era including Joni Mitchell. His clients over the years included Bob Dylan, the Eagles, Tom Petty, Tracy Chapman, Devendra Banhart, and many others.

He came to California with Mitchell and worked for a time at William Morris Agency, where he met mogul-to-be David Geffen while working in the mailroom. They left the agency and formed Geffen-Roberts Company, which signed clients including Mitchell, Young, David Crosby, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Jackson Browne, America and many others before moving into the label business with Asylum Records and Vapor Records.

Among the career managers who got their starts with Geffen-Roberts Company was Irving Azoff, who is a co-founder of Pollstar parent company Oak View Group.

“Elliot along with David built this business. I was fortunate to work with them early in my career and learned how to work with artists. He was a mentor and I will miss him greatly,” Azoff said in an email to Pollstar.

Roberts formed Lookout Management, named for the Lookout Mountain neighborhood of Laurel Canyon, representing Mitchell until 1985 and continuing to manage Young until his death in what, at 52 years, is one of the longest management-client relationships in the modern business.

“Roberts, among the most respected and beloved music industry figures of all time, leaves an indelible footprint as a pioneer and leader in the business of artist representation,” Lookout Management said in a statement. “… His uncanny intellect, unmatched, sharp wit, larger-than-life charisma along with his keen understanding of the music industry will remain unparalleled. Truly one of a kind, he will be missed always and by many. He is survived by his sons Jason, Ethan, Matthew and Zackary, and partner Dana Fineman.”

Neil Young posted a lengthy tribute to Roberts on his Neil Young Archives website, which reads in part, “All the words in the world could not express my sense of love and thanks to Elliot Rabinowitz and his beautiful family, who adored him. He was there for all of us.

Neil Young, Elliot Roberts
Peter Bregg / Getty Images
– Neil Young, Elliot Roberts
Neil Young, director Jonathan Demme, and manager Elliot Roberts attend “Neil Young Life” Premiere at Princess of Wales during the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2011 in Toronto, Canada.

“When it came to our business, Elliot guided me through every move. We talked every day. Often I would call him multiple times in a day, arguing, discussing, planning and sharing. He was there for me and protected my music with a fierceness. … Elliot loved making deals for all of us, saving our publishing rights, ensuring we were treated well, helping book our concerts, as well as book the Bridge Concert with Marsha Vlasic from the very beginning for over 30 years. He made it happen. This world is forever changed for me, for all who knew him and loved him. … Elliot Roberts was the greatest manager of all time. See you at the gig, Elliot.”

Stills, who was represented by Roberts as a solo artist as well as with Crosby, Stills & Nash, also released a statement through Jensen.

“Elliot Roberts was the probably the kindest, gentlest, and far and away the funniest man I ever worked with in show business. He was also tough as a barbed wire fence, fiercely loyal and keenly observant; guarding the best interests of his clients with uncommon tenacity and skill.

“But his greatest gift was his soulful, open heart. No doubt it was the source of his sensitivity and singular understanding of the courageous honesty with which a great artist willingly reveals their soul and transports us. He allowed himself to feel the vulnerability of being fully immersed in the moment, yet oddly untethered. It is a profound experience and not easily undertaken. I have seen him do it, and felt him with me, swimming in the ether.

“Elliot Roberts possessed a unique ability to recognize a great artist when he saw one. His natural empathy was perfectly suited for his emergence as an enormously impactful personal manager to a collection of the most legendary artists of our time.

“I am honored to have been his friend, forever grateful that he chose to represent me. I truly loved Elliot Roberts and shall miss him beyond measure.”

Graham Nash added: “Elliot was a funny, brilliant friend and devoted manager. His life touched many people, and he brought forth the best in people. He was the glue that kept CSNY together in our early years and I will certainly miss him with sadness in my heart.”