Legendary entertainment executive Andre Harrell passed away on May 7 due to heart failure at just 59 years old. To celebrate the fulfilled life of Mr. Champagne & Bubbles, the music world came together with a virtual broadcast paying tribute to Harrell on Sunday evening (May 24).
Whether it was his signature infectious smile, eye for talent or sheer wisdom, a plethora of artists’ careers have been positively impacted by Harrell during his near four decades in the music business. The Uptown Records founder is lauded for helping launch the careers of music luminaries Mary J. Blige and P. Diddy.
The BET-REVOLT TV program saw moving tributes from some of Harrell’s closest entertainment industry friends, like Mariah Carey, Babyface, Pharrell Williams, Russell Simmons, Jamie Foxx, Kimora Lee Simmons, Robin Thicke, Naomi Campbell and more.
Here are seven favorite moments from the broadcast honoring the former Motown Records president. Join the conversation on Twitter using #CelebratingAndreHarrell.
7. He accepted a job at Def Jam Records in 1983 for $200
In an interview recorded prior to his death, Harrell reflected on joining Russell Simmons in 1983 after the two spent a night partying at Stony Brook University. He joked about how Russell could barely afford to pay himself, but Simmons willingly split up his salary so Andre could come on board for $200 a week. “Andre was so generous to so many people. I’ve never met a man who didn’t have a mean bone in his body,” Russell says. “The world will never see a person like him. In my darkest times, he stood right by me.”
6. Pharrell Williams says he wouldn’t be here without Harrell’s discoveries
“I would not be here, as a musician, if it weren’t for him recognizing what was in Teddy Riley,” Pharrell proclaimed. “If it wasn’t for him recognizing what was in Puff. [Andre] did that for scores of people, and those people went on to change the course of history through sound.” Skateboard P then echoed a sentiment shared by most in the tribute, which is how “incredibly generous” Andre was with his wisdom, as many ran to him as a shoulder to lean on seeking his advice.
5. Mariah Carey says there will never be another Andre Harrell
“He was fun personified,” the “Touch My Body” singer recalls. After reminiscing while looking at some older photos, Carey deemed there will never be anyone like Andre Harrell and his radiant glow. “Anytime I was with Andre, I had fun. There will never be anyone else like him,” she continued. “He certainly had an impact on my life and so many people’s lives. I used to call him Guru and he called me Pop Diva Super Starlet.”
4. Robin Thicke debuts “Forever Mine”
Robin Thicke’s relationship with Andre Harrell began as his mentee, but quickly developed into something greater, as Thicke considered Harrell his “closest friend.” Their friendship got to the point that Thicke named Harrell the godfather to his son in 2010. Just a week before his passing, Harrell gave his stamp of approval to one of the “Blurred Lines” singer’s unreleased tracks. Thicke then debuted the soft and aptly-titled “Forever Mine” on the special.
3. Babyface dedicates heartfelt song to Andre Harrell
While mourning the loss of his dear friend, Babyface penned a touching tribute track dedicated to Harrell just two days following his death. “I remember how you smell. I remember how you laugh — how you always told your truth,” he heavenly sang. “Andre, you knew who you were, and I swear if nothing else, you taught me how to be me.”
2. Andre Harrell defines “Uptown Records weather” via Charlamagne Tha God
Radio personality Charlamagne Tha God shared a personal text exchange nearly a year to the day from 2019, which found Harrell descriptively giving his definition of Uptown Records weather in NYC. “Harlem! Pro-Rucker tournaments. Light-skin girls wearing shorts. Hoop earrings, K-Swiss and Air Force 1’s. Convertible Saabs blasting Mary J. Blige ‘Love Without a Limit’ weather.”
1. Jamie Foxx’s first call after winning an Oscar was to Andre Harrell
There aren’t many storytellers like Jamie Foxx out there. After detailing how Harrell would call him “Country,” Foxx explained that the cultural architect epitomized what he thought a city renaissance man should be. “He was a record company executive, but he was different, he was actually nice. Most record company execs are a——-,” he quipped.
Harrell introduced Foxx to the term “black excellence” and Andre’s inspirational words kept him persevering throughout his career. The multi-hyphenate shared a story about a time Harrell jokingly stopped him from talking to actress Charlize Theron at a party. Years later, when Jamie Foxx won an Oscar for his role depicting Ray Charles in Ray, it was actually Theron who presented him with the award, so it was only right for him to call Harrell with Theron for the full-circle moment.