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Herb Cohen (December 30, 1932 – March 16, 2010) was an American personal manager, record company executive, and music publisher, best known as the manager of Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, and many other Los Angeles-based musicians in the 1960s and 1970s.

Life and career

Cohen was born in New York. After a period in the army, he moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1950s, and started to put on concerts with folk singers such as Pete Seeger and Odetta.[1] He began running coffee bars and folk clubs, such as The Unicorn and Cosmo Alley, during the late 1950s and early 1960s.[2]

He began acting as manager for many artists, his eventual roster including Screamin' Jay Hawkins, George Duke, Alice Cooper, Tom Waits, Tim Buckley, Lenny Bruce, and Linda Ronstadt. He also handled Montreux Jazz Festival tours of Japan and the US, and produced the US portion of the Nelson Mandela concert in Wembley Stadium upon Mandela's release.[1]

He was best known as the manager of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention from 1965, arranging their first club dates and, after encouraging record producer Tom Wilson to see them perform, securing their first record deal. He and Zappa went on to set up and jointly own the Straight, Bizarre, and DiscReet Records labels. After a ten year association, he and Zappa parted company amid litigation in 1976.[3]

In 2009, Cohen filed suit for libel against British journalist Barney Hoskyns and his publisher, Random House, Inc., with regard to statements in Hoskyns' book Lowside of the Road, A Life of Tom Waits.[1]


His death, of undisclosed causes, in Napa, California, was announced in Variety.[4]




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