"Producer, record label owner, and musical pioneer Bobby Robinson passed away on Friday, January 7, 2011 after a lengthy illness; Robinson was 93 years old. A musical institution in New York's Harlem community, Robinson was 125th Street's first African-American business owner, opening his legendary Bobby's Happy House record store in 1946 and running it until it closed in 2008 when the building was demolished to make way for new development.
Robinson is best-known to music fans as the visionary producer and label owner whose Fire, Fury, Enjoy, and Red Robin record labels produced a flurry of recordings during the 1950s and '60s that would shape and influence blues, R&B, early rock 'n' roll, and soul music for a generation to follow. Robinson's Fury imprint scored a #1 national hit in 1959 with Wilbert Harrison's R&B romp "Kansas City," and through the years Robinson produced and/or released essential recordings by artists as diverse as blues guitarist Elmore James, R&B shouter Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Lee Dorsey, King Curtis, and many others.
Always with his eye on the next big thing, Robinson was also one of the early pioneers in rap music, discovering young talent and producing early recordings by trailblazing artists like Grandmaster Flash, Doug E. Fresh, Spoonie Gee, and Kool Moe Dee during the late-1970s and early 1980s. An old-school record man with a talent for discovering artists, and coaxing their best performances in the studio, it's unlikely that we'll see another music entrepreneur like Bobby Robinson again.