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Brian Samuel Epstein

EPSTEIN, BRIAN SAMUEL (Shmuel; 1934–1967), British impresario, one of history's most successful show business entrepreneurs whose success in managing the Beatles changed the world of music. Epstein was born on Yom Kippur to Harry (Tzvi) and Malka ("Queenie") in Liverpool, where the family owned a furniture store and where Epstein became manager of the store's record department. When his father opened an NEMS music store on Whitechapel Street, Brian was put in charge, becoming fully engrossed in the world of music and writing a music column for Mersey Beat beginning August 3, 1961. The store was down the street and around the corner from a basement nightclub called The Cavern, and it was there on November 9, 1961, that Epstein first met and saw the Beatles perform. Three weeks later he approached John Lennon and offered to become the Beatles' manager. Paul McCartney's father – who had once bought a piano at the Epstein furniture store – immediately approved, telling Paul that Epstein would make a good manager. "He thought Jewish people were very good with money," McCartney said years later. "That was the common wisdom. He thought Brian would be very good for us.… And he was right.… If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian."

Epstein immediately changed the Beatles' appearance from their unpolished, jeans and leather-jacket greaser look to one of neatly tailored matching suits; and he ordered them not to eat, smoke, or swear on stage and to bow to the audience after each number. After getting rejected by all the major British record companies, Epstein landed the Beatles a recording contract in June 1962 with EMI's smallest labels, Parlophone, headed by Sir George Martin. Drummer Pete Best was fired and replaced by Ringo Starr, and the elements for success were now in place. Indeed, in little more than a year under Epstein's direction, the Beatles began enjoying the greatest success that any popular artists had ever achieved.

Epstein's homosexuality, and his alleged infatuation with Lennon, were the subject of many articles and books. It was extensively rumored that in the Beatles' song "Baby You're A Rich Man," Lennon sang "Baby you're a rich fag Jew" as a slur against Epstein. The audible ambiguity of the recording fueled the rumor into a worldwide urban legend, though it was never authoritatively confirmed.

Epstein died of a drug overdose, likely from some sort of sleeping pills, at age 32. Once he died the Beatles became embroiled in a tangle of conflicts, money squabbles, and personal jealousies, and their business affairs began to unravel. Within three more years the group disbanded.

In addition to managing the Beatles, Epstein also managed Gerry & the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, The Fourmost, and Cilla Black. He wrote an autobiography, A Cellarful of Noise (1964).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.