Billboard and Variety are reporting that Kim Fowley, the legendary record industry impresario and producer who helped put together the Runaways and more, has died in Los Angeles after a long battle with bladder cancer. He was 75.
Fowley, who most recently worked with Ariel Pink and rose to success in the ’60s as a producer on novelty hits, had a long career of collaboration with such acts as Frank Zappa, KISS, Alice Cooper, Leon Russell, The Modern Lovers, Gene Vincent, and Kris Kristofferson. (Pitchfork has a good primer of his work and influence in rock’n’roll.)
His defining moment of success came after meeting then-teenaged Joan Jett and Sandy West, and helping them band together with Lita Ford, Cherie Currie, and Jackie Fox to become The Runaways in 1975. Fowley would work with the group until 1977, during which time he was accused of mismanagement and verbal assaults.
In the decades to follow, Fowley would engage in legal battles with Runaways members, but in 2008, he made peace with Currie. He was living in her Los Angeles-area home earlier this year for a short time, and as Billboard reported, even working on new music together. He returned to the hospital shortly thereafter, where he continued to work on a radio show for Sirius XM’s Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel up until last week.
“I love Kim. I really do,” Currie told Billboard earlier this year. “After everything I went through as a kid with him, I ended up becoming a mom and realized it was difficult for a man in his 30s to deal with five teenage girls. He’s a friend I admire who needed help, and I could be there for him.”
“I think he’s been very misunderstood,” Ariel Pink told Flavorwire of Fowley late last year. “I think that he was not appreciated, very early on, although he worked very much within the industry, like the sort of key nexus of whatever was happening, working with Alan Freed [radio DJ who coined the term “rock’n’roll]. He was really there for the real introduction to rock and roll. He’s a true A&R man, a real impresario, but he’s also a creative, competitive outlier. He kind of came a little bit too early, and he never was interested in money enough to really do anything good for his career.”