West Hempstead-raised music executive Phil Quartararo, who helped shepherd the careers of Paula Abdul, Coldplay, the Spice Girls, Styx, U2 and Keith Urban among others, died Nov. 21 in Los Angeles of pancreatic cancer, his family confirmed. He was 67.
“So sad Phil has gone,” wrote Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Sting, frontman of The Police, on social media. “One of the original team that launched us into the stratosphere. Hugged him for the last time at the Hollywood Bowl in October. Time is precious.”
“Phil Q,” as he ubiquitously was known, helped launch Virgin Records in the United States in 1986, eventually becoming that label’s president and CEO. “Phil believed in me like no other,” Abdul said in a statement. “His ceaseless support for me during my time at Virgin was unparalleled. I will miss him.” In 1997, Quartararo was named president of Warner Bros. Records, and in the early 2000s, as streaming began to supplant physical record sales, Quartararo moved to Virgin’s parent, EMI, to help that company make the transition.
The music industry “was a business known at the time for all kinds of corruption and nastiness. And Phil, he was just never affected by any of that,” his brother Ray Quartararo told Newsday by phone from California. “He was the most honest, thoughtful and compassionate guy in the business.”
Universal Music executive Evan Lamberg told Billboard magazine: “Phil Q was arguably the ‘Mayor of Goodwill’ in our industry for decades. There is no one that he touched that was not better for having known him.”
Quartararo's childhood friend Gregory Burke of Point Lookout was flying out Wednesday to attend the wake and funeral. “He was not tall in stature, but he had the heart and personality of a giant,” Burke said. “He was kind and gentle even as a 12-year-old kid.”
Philip Michael Quartararo was born Jan. 7, 1956, in Manhattan to West Hempstead’s Ignatius “Nick” Quartararo, a Garden City dentist and longtime New York University faculty member, and Sally Quartararo, a homemaker. The eldest of four brothers who spent many weekends at their grandparents’ home in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Quartararo developed an affinity for the borough. “He is a Brooklynite by heart,” said his brother.
After attending West Hempstead’s since-closed St. Thomas the Apostle School, Quartararo went on to the all-boys Chaminade Catholic high school in Mineola. During this time he started managing and booking such local bands as Barnaby Bye and its spinoff, the Alessi Brothers, said another sibling, Paul Quartararo, at venues including the Oak Beach Inn at its original Jones Beach Island location, the since-defunct Dublin Pub in New Hyde Park, and at Chaminade itself.
The school had Sunday afternoon dances after football games, remembers Jack Schmitt, another childhood friend, and Quartararo “turned them from quiet little things into big events. He’d bring in fabulous bands and the place would be packed. We were used to kids from the neighborhood playing, and suddenly he was bringing in real bands.”
After graduating in 1974, Quartararo went to Syracuse University, earning a degree from its Newhouse School of Public Communications while working as a college representative for A&M Records. “He was the only guy I ever knew who had a company car in college,” said Schmitt.
Quartararo then became the A&M rep in the Buffalo market. At the label he “was instrumental in Styx’s rise to classic rock stardom, and to multiplatinum sales status on more than a few of our LPs,” the band said in a statement to Billboard. “We remain ever grateful to him for always showing up, supporting and believing in us. God bless Phil Q.”
In his later career, Quartararo consulted for Shazam, was president of Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation Records, and served on the boards of the guitar manufacturers Gibson and Fender, among other positions, said his family.
In addition to his younger brothers, Phil Quartararo is survived by sons Brandon, Philip, Lucca and Daniele; his fiancee, Joanne Prewett; and two grandsons.
Family and close friends were to gather Wednesday at the City of Santa Monica, California, Woodlawn Cemetery and Mausoleum and for a funeral Mass on Thursday at St. Monica Catholic Church in Santa Monica.
"A Celebration of Phil Q," a gathering of friends from across the music and entertainment industry, will be held in Los Angeles in January at the start of Grammy week.