August 21, 2013

Sid Bernstein, who brought Beatles to Shea, dies

Like so many in the music business, the music promoter was the hustling son of Jewish immigrants, born on Manhattan's Upper East Side, raised in Harlem and hooked on sound and rhythm.

By Hillel Italie / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

Only a satellite broadcast from the moon could have topped it. The Beatles played again at Shea in 1966, but turned down $1 million from Bernstein to return in 1967 and never worked with him again, although he remained friendly with individual members after their breakup.

Obsessed with getting the band back together, he proposed $100 million in 1976 for a single concert. John Lennon, in a 1980 Playboy interview, dismissed Bernstein's offer as "a commercial for Sid Bernstein, written with Jewish schmaltz and show biz and tears, dropping on one knee, like Al Jolson."

Like so many in the music business, Bernstein was the hustling son of Jewish immigrants, born on Manhattan's Upper East Side, raised in Harlem and hooked on sound and rhythm. He sneaked into the Apollo Theater as a boy, booked local acts in high school and, while studying journalism at Columbia University, ran a ballroom in Brooklyn that featured such Latino stars as Morales, Tito Puente and Marcelino Guera.

Bernstein was connected to all kinds of music, getting Ray Charles, the Drifters and Bo Diddley for a show at the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre; rounding up Mississippi John Hurt, Doc Watson and Tom Paxton for a folk festival at Carnegie Hall; arranging a jazz concert that featured Ellington, Louis Armstrong and John Coltrane.

Over the past 20 years, Bernstein's best client became himself. He wrote two memoirs, "It's Sid Bernstein Calling" and "Not Just the Beatles," gave frequent talks about his life and even recorded an album of duets. At age 90, he started a Twitter account, sending regards to Ben Stiller and Lenny Kravitz, reporting on his lunch at the 2nd Avenue Deli and catching up with Beatles fans.

"Twitterland!" he called out in one post. "Let's all have a productive week. I have a few very interesting projects in the works and I'll reveal them very soon."

Bernstein and his wife, Geraldine, were married for more than 40 years. They had six children.

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