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Music executive Arnold Gosewich during his tenure at CBS Records.Courtesy of the Family

Music mogul Arnold Gosewich played an integral part in setting the stage for today’s vibrant Canadian music scene. As president and COO of Capitol Records Canada (1969 to 1977), he advanced the careers of Anne Murray, Edward Bear, Sugar Shoppe, Pierre Lalonde and Beau Dommage while at the same time providing distribution for smaller independent labels that signed bands such as Rush and April Wine.

Moving on to become chairman of CBS Canada (1977 to 1982), now Sony Records, Mr. Gosewich indirectly oversaw artists such as Loverboy, Platinum Blonde, Gowan and Dan Hill, garnering huge sales for the label, while the francophone branch chalked up multiplatinum successes with superstar Celine Dion.

During his years at the helm of two of the country’s biggest labels Mr. Gosewich also served as president of the Canadian Industry Recording Association (now Music Canada), and as a director of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1973, he received the Juno Awards music industry Man of the Year award, an institution for which he helped lay some of the groundwork. Mr. Gosewich died suddenly of natural causes at his home in Toronto on Oct. 20. He was 85.

When Mr. Gosewich took over as president of Capital Records Canada in 1969, the company was losing $1-million a year. Complicating matters, the Canadian market was dismissed as something of a backwater. Opportunities for local artists to be promoted, or even heard, were slim. Large multinational companies existed primarily to distribute and sell records by foreign artists, mainly from the United States and Britain. Fortunately for both Capitol, and Mr. Gosewich, in 1971 the Canadian government passed legislation requiring that a percentage of all artists on radio be Canadian. He was perfectly positioned to take advantage of the new requirement for Can Con, or Canadian content. At the time, Mr. Gosewich saw himself as being “just a kid in his 30s,” albeit a quick study when it came to profit. “I can’t say I was a passionate record man. I loved the music but I loved the chance to make money more.”

As long as Mr. Gosewich turned a profit for Capitol Canada, its parent company in the U.S. granted him autonomy. He disliked what he perceived to be outside interference and fought for budgets to promote artists. In 1972, he joined forces with Australian journalist Ritchie Yorke in organizing a media junket called Maple Music to showcase Canadian talent. During an interview with musician/journalist/broadcaster Bill King for FYI Music News, Mr. Gosewich said he had no idea what a monumental task he had undertaken.

“It was all-expenses-paid. I convinced Air Canada to give us a plane at no charge to bring foreign journalists and media to Canada.” Concerts took place in Montreal at Place des Arts and in Toronto at Massey Hall. “It wasn’t easy,” he said. "A lot of these acts had managers that had to be convinced. The artists wouldn’t be paid. Some managers fought over that. Eventually they gave in. They were smart enough to know better.”

One manager who went along with the ambitious promotional scheme was Bernie Finkelstein, then guiding the careers of artists Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLaughlin and Rough Trade, among others, under his label True North Records.

“I remember meeting Arnold and Sam Sniderman late at night at Sam the Chinese Food Man, right beside Sam the Record Man,” Mr. Finkelstein said. “Arnold pressured me in a gentle way. He was a dealmaker. He wanted to make things work.”

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Arnold Gosewich (left) and Harvey Glatt opened a retail music store in their Ottawa hometown.Bill King Photography

A large part of Mr. Gosewich’s talent lay in trusting the people around him. He told Mr. King, "I never pretended I had the ears to pick the winners. That was for the people who worked in A&R and for the people in the promotion department. What they had to say was more important to me than what I thought of the music.”

One talented A&R man whom Mr. Gosewich inherited at Capital Records was Paul White, the man responsible for signing Anne Murray. The young singer from Nova Scotia created musical history with her 1970 smash single Snowbird, becoming the first Canadian solo female artist to have a gold record in the United States.

Ms. Murray remembers Mr. Gosewich as being “a very classy guy.” “He was president of Capitol records at a very formative time in my career. It was always a pleasure to work with him,” she said in a telephone interview.

Years later, learning that Mr. Gosewich had left the music business and become a literary agent, she sought him out to represent her 2009 autobiography All of Me. “I got in touch because I knew him and I trusted him,” she said. “He got me a publishing deal. He did a good job.”

To anyone curious about his transition from music to book publishing, Mr. Gosewich explained: “It’s very simple. I tell people who know me well that I’m a person who has existed on circumstances. All my life, circumstances have dictated what I’ve done.” In the late 1980s, he had been attending an arts conference in Banff when he found himself having a beer with Ron Besse, a man who had purchased the publishing house MacMillan of Canada. It was another company losing money. After returning to Toronto, impressed by Mr. Gosewich, Mr. Besse got in touch and offered him the job of chief operating officer to turn MacMillan around.

Mr. Gosewich confessed he hardly ever read books, but Mr. Besse was interested in his serious business acumen rather than his familiarity with the written word. The timing was good. Mr. Gosewich felt he had gone as far as he could in the music business without making the requisite move to the U.S. Happily married with two young children, he wanted to keep his family in Canada. He felt he was still flexible enough to shift to a new field. Seven years after joining MacMillan he became a partner in the MGA Literary Agency, before establishing his own agency and book publishing company in 1992. “My father was a man who loved a challenge. It’s a coincidence that the areas he succeeded in fell within the cultural realm,” Stephen Gosewich said. “He would’ve succeeded in anything he set his mind to."

Arnold Gosewich was born in Ottawa on Feb. 23, 1934, the middle son of three. His father, Sam, manufactured baseball caps, men’s fur hats and hats for women. Arnold said his father was a hard worker.

The family lived in an area of Ottawa called Lowertown, where French-speaking kids regularly scuffled with Jewish kids. Arnold was an indifferent student with no ambitions toward further education until he saw it as an opportunity to get out of town with some buddies. He attended Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., graduating in the mid-1950s with an honours degree in business administration. With experience working for college radio, where he used the moniker Arkansas Arn, he and university classmate Harvey Glatt, also from Ottawa, decided they would open a retail music store in their hometown. The Treble Clef, devoted solely to music, was an anomaly in 1957, when recordings were distributed through department stores such as Zellers or through record clubs that sent customers their selections by mail. The Treble Clef was a success, but Mr. Gosewich left to join Sherman’s Records as vice-president and treasurer shortly before its acquisition by Capitol in Los Angeles in 1968. Once again, circumstance laid out the path he would follow.

Mr. Gosewich leaves Jackee, his wife of almost 63 years; his son, Stephen; daughter, Robin; brother, Philip; and four grandchildren.

“Arnold always remained loyal to the people he believed in," said Frank Davies, a record producer whose label was distributed by Capitol in the 1970s. "He was a no-nonsense, shoot-from-the-hip kinda guy to those who worked for and with him. The music business in Canada is a far better place for his numerous contributions all those years ago.”

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