August 6, 2022

‘We Are the World,’ ‘Hands Across America’ organizer was 85 – The Hollywood Reporter

Ken Kragen, who produced The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and Kenny Rogers player films and was the creative force behind the humanitarian projects “We Are the World” and “Hands Across America”, has died. He was 85 years old.

Kragen died Tuesday of natural causes at his home in Brentwood, Los Angeles, a family spokesperson said.

Kragen has managed the careers of Rogers and other top artists including Lionel Richie, the Bee Gees, Olivia Newton-John, Burt Reynolds, the Smothers Brothers and Trisha Yearwood, among others.

In 1985, after receiving a call from Harry Belafonte, Kragen helped round up the talents – including Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, Richie and Rogers – who appeared on the fundraising single and album “We Are the World”, and he brought in Quincy Jones to produce the music. The project has raised approximately $64 million to fight poverty in Africa and the United States

A year later, Kragen returned to organize “Hands Across America”, a human chain that spanned the United States and involved 6.5 million people. This raised millions to help the hungry and homeless.

He has stated that one of his proudest accomplishments was receiving the United Nations Peace Medal in 1985 for creating “We Are the World”; he was one of the few citizens to receive this honor.

Kragen was born on November 24, 1936 in Alameda, California. His mother, Billie, was a violinist and his father, Adrian, a tax expert. He attended UC Berkeley before graduating from Harvard Business School.

He joined The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour as production coordinator in 1967, then served as executive producer on the controversial show’s third and final season in 1968-69. He first met Rogers when his band, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, performed on the show and soon became his manager.

Kragen also wrote the 1994 bestseller Life is a contact sport: Ten Great Career Strategies That Workand with Jones produced part of the 1992 presidential nomination for Bill Clinton.

Kragen has received two Emmy nominations, two MTV Awards, an American Music Award, and a Manager of the Year Award from the Conference of Personal Managers and has been the only person elected president of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music. .

In 2005, he produced The 12 dogs of Christmasa video feature based on her daughter Emma’s children’s book which has sold over 1.2 million DVDs.

He has taught at Harvard Business School, USC, Loyola Marymount, the University of Tennessee and elsewhere and has taught career courses at the UCLA Extension Program and the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

He has also served on several charitable boards, including Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation; Community at school; and the United States for Africa; and organized Cisco Systems’ NetAid event in 1998.

Survivors include his wife of 43 years, actress Cathy Worthington; his daughter Emma Kragen, director of photography, and her husband, director-producer Zach Marion.

“To have been married to someone of such character and kindness is the honor of my life,” Worthington said.

His daughter added: “While I am of course immensely proud of all he has achieved professionally, he has also been the best father I could ask for to me.”

Survivors also include his sister, Robin; nieces and nephews; and brothers-in-law David and Mark and their families.

A lifetime tribute is planned. The Ken Kragen Memorial Foundation is in its early stages and will be accepting donations to charitable causes; you can make a contribution here now or go to WhyHunger.