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R.I.P. Canadian music maverick Deane Cameron

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In the summer of 1998, I got a call from Deane Cameron, president of EMI Music Canada. He said he was a big fan of my book Before the Gold Rush and asked if I’d be interested in writing the Canadian history of EMI to celebrate his label’s upcoming 50th anniversary. Deane had a vision for a book about the company where he’d started in the warehouse and worked his way up to become president. He didn’t want it to be about him—lord no—but about how the evolution of the label mirrored the growth of Canadian music itself. I loved a lot of the artists on Capitol and EMI, past and present. How could I say no? After negotiating what I felt was a very agreeable fee, I ventured out to the EMI offices on American Drive in Mississauga to sign my contract. There in the boardroom I put pen to paper and said, “Okay, show me to your archive.” Deane looked at me with surprise and replied: “What archive? That’s why I hired you!” My heart sank as I realized the enormity of the undertaking to which I’d just committed myself. But, to Deane’s credit and my relief, he ensured that my task was made easier by making every person and resource at the company available to me. He gave me carte blanche in deciding which artists to feature and didn’t balk at the lavish design plans. “I want you to be proud of the book as much as we will be,” he told me. When Fifty Years of Music: The Story of EMI Music Canada was finally published, it was every inch a first-class product: a gorgeous coffee-table book and certainly something to be proud of. Deane had given me the creative freedom to tell the EMI story the way I thought best and poured a heck of a lot of money into its production. I later learned that Deane treated all of his artists and his employees exactly the same way, trusting and empowering them to do their best work. That, I believe, was one of the secrets to Deane’s success—and one of the reasons why he’ll be so fondly remembered.

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