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John Cossette, Grammy Awards show executive producer, dies at 54

April 27, 2011 | 10:36 am

Veteran Grammy Awards executive producer John Cossette, whose father, Pierre, brought the annual music industry event to a worldwide audience as a live telecast in 1971, has died at 54, his family announced Tuesday. They gave no details on the cause or location of his death.

"We are deeply saddened to report that John Cossette, 54, has passed away," according to a statement attributed to his widow, Rita, and daughters Maria and Rose. "We ask that you please respect our privacy during this incredibly emotional time. We appreciate everyone's love and support, and further details regarding funeral arrangements will be forthcoming in the next few days."

John Cossette worked for nearly two decades in tandem with the show's other executive producer, Ken Ehrlich, and producer-director Walter Miller, weaving together the various awards handed out during the broadcast with the numerous musical performances that characterize the Grammy telecast. His father retired in 2005 and died at age 85 in 2009.

John Cossette served in the same role for the Latin Grammys, for the recently introduced Grammy nominations telecast and for several BET channel specials. He also was a producer of the hit Broadway musical "The Million Dollar Quartet," about the musical summit meeting in 1956 of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. The show recently opened in London as well.

During rehearsals in February for the most recent Grammy show, Cossette spoke about his excitement of taking "The Million Dollar Quartet" to London, and how thrilled he was last year when he persuaded the 75-year-old Lewis to join the cast at one of the Broadway performances.

"As rumor has it, in his early days managing an Off-Broadway theatre, he learned that shutting off the air conditioning 10 minutes before intermission sold more drinks," the show's official website states.

Cossette also recently visited with Lewis in Nashville during recording sessions the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member is doing with producer Jack White of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather.

"We were incredibly lucky to have benefited from John's creative guidance and leadership but, more importantly, to have called him our friend," Recording academy President Neil Portnow said in a statement. "His warmth, easygoing nature, passion for music and the arts, and tireless dedication to the Grammy Awards and Latin Grammy Awards [were] unmatched."

-- Randy Lewis