Alan Leeds (pictured, R, with Nelson George and Quest Love) might not be a name familiar to those outside the tightly connected worlds of music and entertainment, but he has been behind the careers of some of the most respected Black acts in those fields. Leeds, who turned 68 this week, was instrumental in bringing acts like James Brown, Prince, Chris Rock, The Roots and D’Angelo to higher heights before becoming a respected executive.
Leeds, who was born January 26, 1947 in Jackson Heights, N.Y., began his career as a music writer. His first foray into the behind-the-scenes aspect of the music industry happened in 1969 when he served as Brown’s publicity director. After solidifying his relationship with The Godfather of Soul, Leeds became his tour manager, acting in that role from 1970-1973.
According to The Roots drummer, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Leeds was in the studio when Brown’s “Sex Machine” was recorded. In 1983, Leeds oversaw Prince’s Purple Rain tours, one of the peaks of the Minneapolis superstar’s career. Leeds saw an early draft of the screenplay that became Prince’s semi-autobiographical Purple Rain movie.
In 1989, Prince named Leeds as president of his Paisley Park label. Leeds also worked with comedian Chris Rock, managing his successful ‘Bring The Pain’ and ‘Kill The Messenger’ stand-up tours. D’Angelo, the aforementioned Roots crew, Raphael Saadiq and others have benefited from Leeds leading and managing their tour schedules.
In 1992, Leeds won a Grammy for Best Album Notes for the James Brown compilation, Star Time. He also wrote the liner notes for the 1993 Prince The Hits/The B-Sides box set. Alongside author Nelson George, Leeds co-wrote The James Brown Reader. Leeds curated the songs used in the James Brown: The Singles collection that was released in 2007.
(Photo: Alan Leeds Facebook page)