Jerry Heller, NWA‘s original manager and before that a successful tour promoter, has died at the age of 75.
His cousin Gary Ballen told Billboard that Heller passed away at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, California on Friday evening (September 2) after suffering a heart attack. However, the exact cause of death has yet to be confirmed.
In the ’60s and ’70s, Heller worked as an agent for numerous artists including Marvin Gaye, ELO, The Who, Journey and Creedence Clearwater Revival, while also promoting the first US tours by Pink Floyd, Elton John and Kraftwerk.
He later helped to accelerate the rise of NWA and the gangsta-rap movement as the group’s original manager, and co-founded the highly influential Ruthless Records with group member Eazy-E. However, Heller’s career in the music industry was controversial as well as successful. Both Ice Cube and Dr Dre left NWA alleging that they had not been paid properly, though neither artist ever sued Heller and he was never convicted of any kind of wrongdoing.
Formidable to the end, Heller filed a defamation lawsuit last year over the way he was portrayed in NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton. He was played by Paul Giamatti in the acclaimed film. He published his autobiography, Ruthless: A Memoir, written with Gil Reavill, in 2006.