April 06 23:11 2015

Al Kohn, whose seventy-year career in the music industry encompassed orchestrating for Irving Berlin and arranging and conducting for Bob Hope, Billy Rose, Paul Whiteman, Milton Berle, and Katherine Murray, as well as nearly a quarter-century as a vanguard music-publishing executive for Warner/Chappell Music, died on April 1 of natural causes in Encino, California. He was 96.

Albert Joseph Kohn was the co-author, with his son Bob, of the definitive business treatise “Kohn on Music Licensing” (Wolters Kluwer, 4th Edition), and most recently a member of the Board of Directors of the Johnny Mercer Foundation.

Mr. Kohn was associated for 23 years with Warner Bros, where he was Vice President, Licensing for Warner/Chappell Music upon his retirement in 1993.

There he worked directly with legendary songwriters Ira Gershwin, Harry Warren, Sammy Kahn, Herb Magidson, Jay Livingston, Rupert Holmes, and many others. Prior to his music-publishing endeavors, which began with the Francis, Day & Hunter organization, he was a key music arranger for several major pre-World War Two network radio programs, including “Waltz Time” and “Manhattan Merry-Go-Round.” During the War, he was tapped by Irving Berlin to orchestrate the composer’s all-soldier show “This Is the Army.”

Before that, Mr. Kohn served as an arranger for orchestras, including those of Paul Whiteman, Abe Lyman, Ted Dale, and Orrin Tucker, and arranged night club revues at Lou Walter’s Latin Quarter, Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe, and the Steel Pier Music Hall. Later, he arranged music for television series and specials for Milton Berle, Katherine Murray, George Jessel, Martha Raye, and Jane Pickens.  Mr. Kohn also arranged or conducted for Bob Hope, Billy Rose, Jerry Vale, and many others. He attended the Harlem Conservatory of Music and, at the age of fifteen, he started his own band, The Crestonians, named after Creston Junior High School in the Bronx, which he attended at the time. After that he served as the school band leader at DeWitt Clinton High School. While working in music publishing, he also prepared sheet-music arrangements for the works of Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Chuck Berry, and Graham Nash.

A member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters, and the Lambs Club, Mr. Kohn was married to his late wife Edna for over 65 years. He is survived by his sons Ted, Matt, and Bob, six grandchildren, three great grandchildren, and his younger brother Roy Kohn.


A memorial service will be held at 11:30AM on Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at Mt. Sinai Memorial Park Hollywood Hills, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068 (800) 600-0076.

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