Peter J. Levinson

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Veteran music public relations executive and Malibu resident Peter J. Levinson, considered by many in the music industry to be the preeminent authority on jazz and affiliated music, died Oct. 21 of head injuries due to a fall at his home. He was 74.

For nearly two years, Levinson had suffered from ALS, which had robbed him of his ability to speak. However, with the aid of his talking computer, he was able to carry on business as usual until the day he died.

In recent years Levinson had also become one of the industry’s most prominent biographers of major figures in the musical field.

Born July 1, 1934, in Atlantic City, Levinson was educated at Hill School and received a bachelor’s degree in English and history from the University of Virginia. He began writing about jazz artists for school and local publications and produced jazz concerts while at college, continuing while serving in the U.S. Army and assigned to Korea.

In 1958, Levinson was spotted by Columbia Records, where he began his career in the publicity department. After working on more than 17 campaigns, including the Grammy Award-winning “Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings,” he became an agent for MCA, working with big bands like Harry James and Charlie Barnet. He also operated as a freelance writer for national magazines, gaining notoriety as the author of numerous published stories on Frank Sinatra.

Under his own Peter Levinson Communications banner, Levinson represented many musicians and companies. For these and numerous other clients, he functioned in campaigns that won two Tony Awards, six Grammys, an Oscar, Gold and Platinum Records, and many nominations. Prior to forming his own company, he was a key executive with John Springer Associates.

Levinson was also involved in event publicity.

Levinson is survived by his wife of 25 years, former “60 Minutes” producer Grace Diekhaus; brother, John Levinson; two nephews and a niece. Funeral services will be private, with a musical memorial to be set later this year. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the University of Virginia.