M. William Krasilovsky, the co-author of the book “This Business of Music,” died on Oct. 7 of congestive heart failure in Ashland, Oregon. He was 92.
An expert on matters of copyright, Krasilovsky wrote “This Business of Music” with Sidney Shemel, a music attorney working with United Artists, as a legal reference for musicians in the early days of the music industry. First published in 1964, it went on to sell more than 500,000 copies over 10 editions. The book was also famously featured in the 2003 movie “School of Rock.”
Born in Brooklyn in 1926, Krasilovsky would go on to graduate from law school at Cornell University and, in 1953, took on what would turn out to be ground-breaking anti-trust litigation brought by a group of 33 ASCAP composers and lyricists, among them Ira Gershwin, Arthur Schwartz, Gian Carlo Menotti, Dorothy Fields and Alan Jay Lerner.
The eight-year experience led to Krasilovsky’s appointment as counsel to Warner Brothers Music, where his job duties involved work for artists like Bob Dylan and Peter Paul & Mary, and was related to classic songs like “Stand By Me”, “Georgia on my Mind” and “California Here I Come.” Krasilovsky later partnered with music attorney Andrew J. Feinman to serve a roster that included Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Burt Bacharach, Dionne Warwick, Paul Anka, Cowboy Jack Clement, Babatunde Olatunji, Alicia Keys and Leon Redbone.
Another of his Krasilovsky’s momentous legal moments came in 1971 when he compelled Miriam Stern, former head of the American Guild of Authors and Composers, and New York music publisher Freddy Bienstock, to pursue foreign royalties for 40,000 songs including “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” Court battles would follow for the next 25 years, but finally in 1995, a judgment brought millions of dollars to the estates of 177 U.S. composers and governs the rights to their work in 35 countries.
Described by Greenwich Village folk star Dave Van Ronk in the book “The Mayor of MacDougal Stree,” as “the music industry lawyer par excellence,” Krasilovsky often testified as an expert witness, speaking on behalf of Bruce Springsteen and the Jimi Hendrix estate. Other artists whom Krasilovsky advised included Chuck Berry, The J. Geils Band, Phil Spector and the estates of Sergei Rachmaninoff, Fats Waller, Robert Johnson and Lorenz Hart.
Krasilovsky and his family resided in Chappaqua, New York, for 35 years and he commuted into New York City well into his 80s. He later lived in Connecticut and Ashland, Oregon. He is survived by four children: Alexis Krasilovsky of Los Angeles; Jessica Krasilovsky of New York; Margaret Krasilovsky Brookes of London, England; and Peter Krasilovsky of Ashland, Oregon. He is also survived by one grandchild.
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