LOS ANGELES — Don Engel had only a small law firm in Los Angeles — just two or three attorneys in addition to him and his wife. But a phone call from Engel could strike fear among the loftiest executives in the music business.

Engel, who represented some of the biggest pop stars of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, was a fierce, tireless and some say overbearing fighter on behalf of clients who wanted to revise or cancel their recording contracts. Among his clients were hit makers Olivia Newton-John, Donna Summer, Don Henley and the band Boston.

“He was a force,” said entertainment industry lawyer Russell Frackman, who went up against Engel several times in legal fights. “There are not many lawyers in this area, or any area, where just the fact that one man was involved would cause anxiety on the other side. He was fearless.”

Engel, who later in his career represented artists such as Luther Vandross, Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones and the Dixie Chicks in various battles, is credited with helping change the balance of power in the industry, giving more of it to artists.

“In many important ways, what we have come to call the artist rights movement in the U.S. started with Don Engel’s representation of artists against record companies who overreached,” said entertainment attorney Chris Castle. “Just knowing that Don Engel was a phone call away had a certain civilizing effect on our business. Whether they know it or not, both superstars and new artists alike benefit from his groundbreaking representation.”

Engel, 84, died Jan. 15 in a hospital in Redwood City, Calif. He had been battling leukemia for 17 years, said his wife, Judy.

The Engels had moved to Northern California so their physician son, Gregory, could oversee his father’s care.

Don Engel also is survived by another son and two daughters.