Bhaskar Menon, EMI and Capitol Records Legend, Dies at 86

Bhaskar Menon, the founding Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of EMI Music Worldwide and prominent music and film executive, died on March 4, 2021 at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 86. He is survived by Sumitra, his wife of 49 years, sons Siddhartha and Vishnu, and sister Vasantha Menon.

A citizen of the United States, Menon was born in India where he was educated at The Doon School and St. Steven’s College before earning a Master’s degree from Christ Church, Oxford. Menon was recruited to EMI in 1956 and went on to a dazzlingly successful 34 year career bringing the British company’s sprawling assets spread over 46 countries together under one roof.

Joining the Gramophone Company of India in 1967, EMI’s Indian subsidiary, Menon was appointed Managing Director in 1965 and Chairman in 1969 overseeing 10,000 employees. Recognized for his unmatched passion for the increasingly global dynamics of the music business, Menon was appointed Managing Director of EMI International with direct operating responsibility for companies in 25 countries in 1969. Two years later Menon was asked to temporarily move to Los Angeles as President and Chief Executive Officer of Capitol Records, a public corporation in which EMI held majority interest. Menon turned around the financially troubled Capitol EMI into a successful major player in the music industry. His motto for his employees was simple: ‘Uncompromising excellence in what you do goes without saying. We expect more than that.’

 Los Angeles was to become Menon’s permanent home. In 1978, Menon was appointed Chairman and CEO of EMI Music Worldwide, a position he would hold for 12 years. Along the way he cultivated a who’s who of iconic artists including The Beatles (as a group and solo projects,) Rolling Stones, Queen, David Bowie, Tina Turner, Natalie Cole, Grand Funk Railroad, Helen Reddy, Steve Miller, Bob Seger, Anne Murray, Glen Campbell, Iron Maiden, Heart, Kenny Rogers, Duran Duran, Maria Callas and Ravi Shankar. He played an instrumental role in introducing Pink Floyd to American audiences by tirelessly promoting The Dark Side of the Moon in 1973. Menon was appointed to Chairman of EMI Films & TV for North America in 1978, which received five Academy Awards for its production of The Deer Hunter that year.

Left to Right: Brian Southall, Bhaskar Menon, Terri Anderson, EMI 1989. Photo courtesy of Terri Anderson Collection.

In 1990, Menon was awarded the IFPI Medal of Honour for services to the Worldwide Music Industry after serving as Chairman of the IFPI for many years, the global music industry association. That same year, he was appointed “Chevalier De L’Ordre Des Arts et Des Lettres” by the French Government for services to the Music and Film Industries. In his final years, Menon served as strategic advisor and active board member for various companies particularly NDTV India. He particularly enjoyed using his decades of amassed experience to mentor countless aspiring entrants into the music business.

Vijaya Bhaskar Menon was born in Thiruvanthapuram India on May 29, 1934. His father KRK Menon was a prominent civil servant who would go on to serve as India’s first Finance Minister. It was from his mother Saraswathi, who filled their home with mellifluous Indian ragas and knew many of the virtuosos personally, that he gained his passion for music.

Menon’s deep interest in EMI history led him to become a close friend, supporter and contributor to the work of the EMI Archive Trust.  He will be deeply missed.

Main Image: Bhaskar Menon, EMI c.1960s.