Gale Sparrow, Ex-Director of Artist Relations at MTV, Dies at 74

Gale Sparrow, the former executive who led MTV’s talent and artist relations team during the cable television channel’s golden years, died Sunday (March 31) following a battle with lung cancer. She was 74.

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Born Jan. 20, 1950, Sparrow began her career in the music business at CBS/Epic Records in 1976.

Five years later, in 1981, she was recruited to join MTV’s startup team. MTV switched on in August of that year and started a revolution, one that facilitated a change in the way music was consumed, and how artists and labels presented their music.

Sparrow played her part in that sea change, initially as the talent coordinator. As MTV’s presence and network grew, so did Sparrow’s duties, with a promotion to director of talent and artist relations.

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MTV helped launch, and relaunch, countless careers. Sparrow worked with all of them. Tina Turner’s remarkable solo comeback in the mid-’80s can be attributed, in part, to the late singer’s support from MTV, and savvy guidance from artist manager Roger Davies. Speaking with Billboard in 2023 following the Rock Hall inducted legend’s passing on May 24 at 83, Sparrow recalled Turner as the “hottest ticket in town,” who “just wowed everybody” in person. “She just was a sparkle. She had that spark in her eye,” Sparrow remembered. “Tina gave MTV a kind of second jolt of excitement. It was a whole different persona as an artist: She could have been your best friend. Everybody felt comfortable around her. You don’t have to please her.”

As news spread of Sparrow’s passing, friends and former colleagues paid tribute to the exec and her work. Sparrow was “an integral and passionate part of the original team that launched MTV —and many of those legendary artist moments were directly her contributions,” comments Bob Pittman, former CEO of MTV Networks and co-founder and programmer who led the team that created MTV. “That voice, laugh, and the wickedly mischievous smile will be missed….one of a kind.” The 2023 iHeartRadio Music Awards “were in memory of her,” Pittman says.

“There’s no doubt in my mind they needed someone up there in rock ‘n’ roll heaven to handle talent and artist relations,” remarks MTV co-founder Les Garland. “After all the years, I’ve never felt closer to Gale than these past three years. Indeed, we all have Gale Sparrow stories, galore. Please let them bring a smile and a grateful feeling to your soul. RIP ‘Sparrow’, I will miss those phone calls! #Love #Respect.”

Sparrow died peacefully at her home in Doylestown, Penn., according to reps.

No funeral is planned at this time per Sparrow’s wishes.

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