Rock Hall Special: The 2022 Ahmet Ertegun Award Honorees Jimmy Iovine, Sylvia Robinson and Allen Grubman

Without Jimmy Iovine, Sylvia Robinson and Allen Grubman, the Rock Hall’s 2022 Ahmet Ertegun Award honorees, the music industry would be quantitatively and qualitatively worse off. Though this diverse slate of music business titans represents distinctly different pillars of the industry, their successes have had profound impacts on the entire music ecosystem.

If we hold these honorees up to the “It’s A Wonderful Life” test, i.e. imagining life without them (a la George Bailey, whereby petty and less talented Mr. Potters fills the void), the enormous influence these three savvy geniuses exerted over this industry stands in stark relief. 

Sylvia Robinson | Don Paulsen | Michael Ochs Archives | Getty Images

Without Sylvia Robinson, where would hip-hop be today? Would foundational classics by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five and The Sugar Hill Gang, whose wildly influential jams, “The Message” and “Rapper’s Delight,” respectively – released on Robinson’s seminal Sugar Hill label – have seen the light of day? Would artists, including the Crash Crew, Spoonie Gee, Funky 4 Plus 1, the Treacherous Three, Busy Bee and The Sequence, a Southern female rap act, have had careers? Without these pioneers, who would have inspired subsequent generations that helped birth today’s hip-hop juggernaut? 


Jimmy Iovine  | Oliver Morris | Getty Images

No Jimmy Iovine, different sounding classic albums by Patti Smith (Easter), Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Damn the Torpedoes), Stevie Nicks (Bella Donna), U2 (Rattle & Hum) and others. And who would have signed and vigorously promoted all the groundbreaking careers on Iovine’s Interscope Records? What happens to Eminem, Dr. Dre, Nine Inch Nails, Tupac Shakur, 50 Cent, Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg and No Doubt?  And, for that matter, how does Apple Music look without Iovine’s Beats crew helping to steer the ship? 


Allen Grubman  | Ron Galella | Getty Images

Without Allen Grubman, legions of brilliant artists may not have gotten their fair share. This includes Bruce Springsteen, Lizzo, The Weeknd, Lil Nas X, J Balvin, U2, Mariah Carey, the David Bowie estate, Lady Gaga and Madonna. This, because this legendary attorney prided himself on clients maintaining creative control of their work. He and  Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks repped some of the industry’s most important music businesses, including major  companies such as Spotify, iHeartMedia, MTV and Live Nation. 

What does this industry look like without these major players? Each one of them took divergent paths into the industry, sharing  a tireless work ethic and building their careers from the bottom up, rising to spectacular heights. 

A pop starlet who started writing songs at the age of 12, Robinson hit the big time with her 1956 No. 1 hit “Love is Strange” with Mickey & Sylvia. This, before learning to produce and run a label. In 1979, the “Godmother of Rap” co-launched the seminal Sugar Hill Records. 

Iovine cleaned a recording studio, joined The Record Plant as an engineer in his early 20s, and wound up working on major rock albums like Springsteen’s Born to Run and John Lennon’s Walls & Bridges. 

And Grubman started in the William Morris Agency’s messenger room and worked as a page for “The Ed Sullivan Show” before becoming an entertainment lawyer in 1969.

These wildly impactful honorees helped make our lives immeasurably more wonderful. What would the Potters have done?