Ever wonder how artists, celebrities, and politicians mysteriously die under suspicious yet perfectly timed circumstances? Me neither. Organized crime is a notorious part of human history. As far as time can tell, there have been innumerable alliances in communities, both big and small, that use predatory tactics to “help” those in need. Although, these helpers, more often than not, end up causing more harm than good.
Celebrities that have seemingly come from nothing appear to effortlessly turn their lives into fantasies suited for the likes of royalty. However, it takes a village…or a mob, if you’re in the music industry. It’s no secret that Frank Sinatra had ties to the Italian mob—but he wasn’t the only one. In 1979, NBC News aired a segment called Crime Rock which featured a popular group called Rare Earth. One member of the band explains: “When a band or a management company man run into trouble financially, that’s when they come in…they’ll promise you anything in the world…but meanwhile they have to have a percentage of the business, and I’m talking about loan sharking….” (Crime Rock, 1979).
When dealing with mobsters, a deal can sometimes cost your life. Situations like that of Rare Earth are not uncommon. ’50s superstar Bobby Fuller was at the height of his career when he was suddenly found dead under bizarre circumstances. “The Music Industry’s Darkest Secret” purports: cops followed no protocols and automatically ruled Fuller’s death suicide, coroners found no evidence of suicide but, instead, assault, and investigators put on the case immediately declined the case and left town. It was later revealed that Fuller had been having financial disputes with Keane shortly before the incident of his death. Many people involved with Fuller even claimed to have been threatened by mobsters to keep quiet regarding matters of the case.
Another “Bob” fallen victim to the predatory lending Rare Earth and Bobby Fuller faced is the legendary Bob Dylan. If you know anything about the mob…the less you say, the better. In 2004, 60 Minutes interviewed Bob Dylan. He cryptically says just about everything he can without saying too much. In the interview, Dylan is asked why he still tours after decades of less than satisfying gigs. Dylan explains: “I made a bargain… a long time ago and I’m holding up my end.” The interviewer then asks: “May I ask who you made the bargain with?” To which Dylan responds: “The uh… chief commander…”.
Because artists working with the mob often cannot repay the overabundant loans they are given, their record contracts include “The Death Clause.” Courtney Love’s father, who used to manage the Grateful Dead and publicly stated Love orchestrated Kurt’s death, wrote an article explaining this clause. “If an artist fails to perform or pay back advances, the artist becomes more profitable dead… This clause is a way of assuring the recording company will collect all of their money (and yours) if you die, no matter how you die.” (Static Live, Harrison) A Market Watch article explains: “Prince’s album sales surged by 16,000% the day after his 2016 death, and Tom Petty’s jumped 6,800% the day after he died….” And this goes on with every dead artist going as far back as Bobby Fuller. Although, I doubt the mob would ever kill anybody for money and bribe or threaten everyone involved to cover it up.
A bit deeper down this rabbit hole, we have the MCA (Music Corporation of America): founded by Julius Cesar Stein with the help of the Chicago Outfit (Italian mob, Chicago division). The MCA’s monopolization of the show biz industry is straight out of the mafia playbook. By 1962, MCA was the most prominent talent agency, controlled the second largest record company, and was also the world’s most successful producer and distributor of TV film series. Considering MCA’s mob ties, a Department of Justice probe was assigned the case to investigate how MCA acquired such power. As soon as he accepted the case, the DOJ probe was immediately fired from the Justice Department. “The Music Industry’s Darkest Secret” goes far more in-depth about how the mob manipulates these entities.
The glamorous lives of our favorite celebrities and pop icons give the Average Joe a tantalizing glimpse into a world of luxury, overflowing to the nth degree. Although, the starter money bestowed upon them comes with a sometimes-deadly price. Considering many of these artists were tied to the mob, whether knowingly or not, it’s understandable how suspicious circumstances can occur surrounding musicians’ deaths. Unfortunately, these deaths are one of the quickest and easiest ways to repay debts and earn above what these artists even owed. But then again, I doubt the mob would ever kill anyone, let alone for money.