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Marshall McLuhan Centenary Fellow Sandy Pearlman Passes Away

We are saddened to announce that Sandy Pearlman, a poet, writer, songwriter, producer of The Clash and Blue Öyster Cult, manager, professor, and visionary, passed away on Tuesday, July 28, 2016 in Marin County, California. Since August 2014, he was a Marshall McLuhan Centenary Fellow at The McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology. On behalf of Interim Director, Seamus Ross, and Dean Wendy Duff, we offer our deepest condolences to his family.


Sandy Pearlman
Sandy Pearlman


Described by the Billboard Producers’ Directory as “the Hunter Thompson of rock, a gonzo producer of searing intellect and vast vision,” Sandy was infamously parodied by Christopher Walken in Saturday Night Live’s ‘cow bell’ skit on the making of BOC’s “The Reaper”. Pearlman is often credited with the adoption and use of the term “Heavy Metal” during his time as a founder, editor, and writer for Crawdaddy magazine. He was also a founder and leader in 415 Records (the seminal alternative label), EMusic (the first download company), and Moodlogic (the transmedia recommendation engines project), and was recently appointed to the National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB) of the US Library of Congress.

Pearlman was a brilliant and relentless commentator on the “overweight and under-nourished music industry,” developing such concepts as the ‘5 cent solution’ and ‘the paradise of infinite storage’, and appearing regularly at the Future of Music Coalition, Canadian Music Week, South-by-Southwest, Pop Montreal, Los Angeles Film Festival, Southbank Festival, etc.

At McGill University, Pearlman was the inaugural Schulich Distinguished Visiting Professor in Music, and was involved in innovative teaching in five faculties and several academic areas, including Music, English, Religious Studies, Law, and Management. An astounding polymath, with a seemingly near-bionic memory bank of information at his disposal in myriad disciplines from physics to arcana, Pearlman was constantly evocative and provocative. As a Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto Pearlman was responsible for inspiring insights into the nature and impact of symphonic music in an Arts elective course and developing new inter-faculty interdisciplinary initiatives in Music Technology & Digital Media. In that context, he was also a McLuhan Fellow through the Coach House Institute of the UofT iSchool. In addition to his presence at UofT and McGill, Pearlman was a frequent guest lecturer and sought-after advisor in digital media issues at many institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, Stony Brook, Calgary, Dominican University of California, UC Berkeley and Santa Cruz.

Sandy leaves behind the transformed lives of many friends and fans, students and colleagues. His unique and inspiring presence will be deeply missed by us all.

July 26, 2016