Ken Kragen, a leading entertainment producer, executive and philanthropist, who reached out to clients like Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers to help organize the 1985 all-star charity single “We Are the World” , passed away. He’s 85 years old.
Kragen died Tuesday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles, according to a statement by his family.
“Ken has worked tirelessly on behalf of the artists he represents, but what I love most about him, beyond his spiritual nature, is that he has a 360-degree understanding that the combination between art and commerce can be used to make the world a better place,” Quincy Jones, producer of “We Are the World,” tweeted this week.
“As one of the original organizing partners of “We Are the World”, with Ken’s specific expertise and skills, we may never have made such a huge global impact as we did. ,” Jones tweeted.
Kragen graduated from Harvard Business School with other credits including producing the comedies “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” and “The Gambler” starring Rogers. His most famous project began in late 1984 with a phone call from Harry Belafonte, who was anxious to raise money for the starving in Africa, especially in Ethiopia, where famine had killed millions of people. British recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Featuring George Michael, Bono and many others, it was a huge success and Belafonte wanted to organize a US effort.
For the first time he contacted Kragen, whom he did not even know.
“I need a younger generation of artists who are at the top of the charts right now: Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers and Cyndi Lauper. When I look at the management of most of these artists, I keep seeing the same name: Ken Kragen,” Belafonte writes in his memoir “My Songs,” published in 2011.
Kragen was hesitant at first, Belafonte wrote, but called Richie, who said yes. So did Rogers, Jones and dozens of others, including Jackson, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder. “We Are the World,” co-written by Jackson and Richie, has sold tens of millions of copies and won a Grammy for record and song of the year. Kragen later received the United Nations Peace Medal.
Kragen also manages Trisha Yearwood, the Bee Gees and Olivia Newton-John among others. His other philanthropic activities include the “Hands Across America” fundraiser since 1985, when a cross-country string of acts featured everyone from Presidents Ronald Reagan, Yoko Ono to Robin Williams.
Kragen’s survivors include his wife, actress Cathy Worthington; their daughter, cinematographer Emma Kragen; and her husband, director/producer Zach Marion.
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https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/entertainment/entertainment-news/ken-kragen-who-helped-organize-we-are-the-world-dies/3082623/ Ken Kragen, Who Helped ‘We Are the World,’ Dies – NBC10 Philadelphia