Tributes have been paid to Malcolm Dunbar, one of the UK’s most beloved, successful and respected A&R executives, who passed away in London on Saturday, May 6, after a short illness, aged 67.
In an A&R career spanning over 30 years, with positions at three majors, two leading independents, and career sales in excess of 40 million records, Dunbar most recently had been a consultant for a variety of funds, most recently MusicCapital, in purchasing artist catalogues.
Dunbar began his illustrious talent-spotting career as an A&R manager at Polydor in 1984, where he signed Lloyd Cole And The commotions, and Orange juice, amongst many others.
From there, Dunbar quickly graduated to head of A&R at Island Records, enjoying huge success with The Christians and Julian Cope, before, in 1989, taking on the role as A&R director at the Warners/East West imprint, where his run of success continued with artists including Tanita Tikaram and Ian McCulloch.
Music is born of the heart and our business's heart beats fainter without Malcolm
Another successful run as MD of Mother Records, nurturing the careers of artists like Bjork and Longpigs, was followed by further success in the noughties at V2 (Liberty X and Estelle) and then Sanctuary Records (The Cranberries/Marc Almond).
In 2008, Dunbar moved away from frontline label work to pioneer a series of start-up music funds, including Power Amp and Pledge Music, and had most recently been working for US company MusicCapital.
A host of top names have paid tribute to Dunbar.
“Malcolm was one of a kind and one of many kinds of kindness,” praised Crispin Hunt, frontman of Longpigs (signed to Malcolm’s Mother Records) and producer, songwriter, music reformer, PRS director and ex-Chair of The Ivor’s Academy. “An outsider and an insider, a fighter, a slider, and a leader whose passion and power lay in inspiration over imitation, instinct over hyperlink, heart over head. Music is born of the heart and our business's heart beats fainter without him.”
“As well as being a lovely man, Malcolm was a great competitor…” said Live Nation EMEA president, John Reid. “He was relentless in the chase. I’ll miss him greatly. RIP. ”
“Malcolm was one of the good guys,” said Kill Your Friends author John Niven. “A real loss.”
"Malcolm signed The Commotions and we had a wonderful couple of years working together at Polydor," said Lloyd Cole. "He was smart, passionate about his music, generous and funny - there was always a twinkle in his eye. It was still there when I saw him at my Union Chapel show a couple of years ago. He leaves a lot of friends in music. Saddened friends. RIP, Malcolm."
“Malcolm was the first person I met who actually worked in the music industry, and from that day on, for almost forty years, we were great friends,” reflected former film-maker, and now acclaimed Scottish thriller writer, Alan Parks. “I’ve never met anyone so knowledgeable, and so excited by music, in my life. He will be much missed, but his spirit will live on.”
“A passionate music man, a keen cyclist, a Fulham supporter, a gentleman and a good friend,” said John Reid, from JPR Management, and former Longpigs/Maccabees manager. “He will be sorely missed.”
Dunbar leaves behind his wife, Sophy, and two children, Jackson and Jess. Music Week has been informed that funeral arrangements will be confirmed and announced in the coming days.