I didn’t know Elliot Roberts, Neil Young‘s longtime manager for over 50 years plus a career-guider and consultant for Joni Mitchell (i.e., her manager from the late ’60s to ’85), Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Devo, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, et. al. And I only dealt with him personally once. But I’m sorry about his passing at age 76. Hugs and condolences to all those who knew, admired and cared for the guy.
Young has posted a tribute on his website. “My friend for over 50 years, Elliot Roberts, has passed away. We are all heartbroken, but want to share what a great human being Elliot has been. Never one to think about himself, he put everyone else first. That’s what he did for me for over fifty years of friendship love and laughter, managing my life, protecting our art in the business of music. That’s what he did.”
My one and only run-in with Roberts happened at a party in Los Angeles. (Or was it Toronto?) It might have happened nine or ten years ago, but it could have been more like 15 years. It might have been around the time of Young’s Greendale, which popped in ’04.
Anyway, I saw Young standing in a corner of the gathering and noticed he was more or less alone, and so I walked over to say hi. I was just about to offer a greeting when all of a sudden the stern-faced Roberts (who was about my height) was right in my face, eyeballing me like a security guard and saying “Can I help you?”
HE: “Can you ‘help’ me? Well, I’m a journalist and not an assassin, and we’re all at a party and I just wanted to chat with Neil for a second. What’s the big deal?” Roberts: “Neil isn’t doing interviews tonight.” HE: “Okay, cool but I’m not looking to ‘interview’ him…just, you know, some friendly, inconsequential small talk.” Roberts: “Not tonight.” HE: “Why is Neil at a press party with guys like me all around if he doesn’t want to talk to anyone?” And yaddah yaddah.
Roberts refused to back off. He was playing the security goon, determined to protect Neil from any and all comers. During this idiotic back-and-forth I snuck a look at Young, and he was staring at the rug and wearing a shit-eating grin…totally amused by Roberts playing the flinty hardass and blocking me like a linebacker.