Gary Stewart, a veteran of Rhino Records and Apple Music and a widely known figure on the Los Angeles rock scene for more than 40 years, has died, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office confirmed to Variety. He was 62. The Santa Monica Police Department confirmed that he died by suicide.
A Los Angeles native, Stewart worked behind the counter from the mid-‘70s at Rhino Records’ store on Westwood Boulevard, a music hub not unlike the one depicted in the book and film “High Fidelity.” He was an archetypal “record store guy” who loved little more than “turning people on” to music or films that he thought they would love. That quality remained with Stewart until the end of his life.
Stewart soon moved to Rhino’s fast-growing record company, where he was one of the first people hired by founders Harold Bronson and Richard Foos, and ultimately rose to the position of Senior VP of A&R for Rhino Entertainment. During his tenure at the label, Rhino, which was ultimately purchased by Warner Music, became the most prominent reissue label in the U.S. Stewart was a key force behind the company’s cross-licensed boxed sets; he also oversaw Rhino’s reissue campaign devoted to Elvis Costello. He spearheaded Rhino’s move into contemporary music, signing such acts as singer-songwriter Cindy Lee Berryhill.
From his friend, Jeff Gold:
"Just so everyone knows, Gary knew how much he was loved. He may have brushed it aside when told so, but he knew it. A few months ago at lunch we had a very frank discussion—he was depressed, lamenting not having a job, relationship, having spent too much of his Apple money and not knowing what the next chapter of his life was. He was obviously suffering, but didn’t sound remotely without hope. I emphasized to him how unique and employable he was, knowing an impossibly lot about music, and having come from Apple, and that there would be many companies that would want to know about their inner workings. We spent a long time brainstorming ideas for a new job (he took notes), and he referred to his next chapter in subsequent email as Gary 4.0. I invited him to write something for my blog which he wanted to do and was working on. I told him again and again how beloved he was and how much good karma he had. He also told me that he owned his house and had enough money for at least 10 or 15 years, and that he was cutting back on going out and spending to make it last. He was fully engaged in finding solutions to his issues, and wrote me the next day "And yes, I know just how ok I am-and how much, on every level, I've got-I always have really.” A week or so later he wrote apologized for not getting the blog post to me sooner, saying he was working on it and ’that’s on top of two networking calls/meetings a day-with exercise and meditating thrown in for good measure.
I followed up with him regularly; he went on a meditation retreat (which he didn’t love that much, but was doing more meditating on his own), and he was definitely getting mental health care, He alluded to a medical thing, but told me it wasn’t serious, and that he was fine.
Last week we had dinner, went to see the Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus film in a theater, and sat in the lobby for an hour or so afterward talking. He was again upfront about what was going on, and seem to be somewhat better, and said he was. We talked about ketamine being approved for depression, and I think he was going to ask his therapist about it. I am pretty sure he told me he was seeing his psychiatrist the next day and was going to discuss changing his anti depressant, but I’m not positive about that. We discussed and I sent him a link to an Israeli film on a study where PTSD survivors were dramatically helped with MDMA/ecstasy. He wrote me an email this Monday telling me he really enjoyed it, and how it gave him a deeper understanding into a similar therapy a friend of his had tried.
I’m writing this to let his friends know that Gary knew he was depressed, had reached out to me, and I’m sure to others, was talking about it, trying to find a solution, and getting mental health care. In no way did I think he was suicidal, but obviously I was wrong. But he was doing his best to try to help himself. Gary was always working on himself, trying to be a better person, of service to his friends and humanity at large.
I loved Gary and always will. In my modern Buddhist worldview, reincarnation isn’t about being reborn into a new body. It’s about how the departed continue to live on in those they loved, taught, or touched in some way, and how their energy is carried forward by those they leave behind. I can’t think of anyone who put more great energy into the world, and so Gary will be reincarnated in each of us.
Feel free to share this as you wish."