Peter Levinson, the publicist with a parallel career as a biographer of music and show business figures, died yesterday in a fall in his house in Malibu, California. He was seventy-four. Levinson had been suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, which robbed him of his voice but did not leave him incommunicado. Through the use of a computer capable of converting his typing to speech, he was able to keep working. He had finished a biography of Fred Astaire, which is to be published next spring. He also wrote three other books, biographies of Harry James, Tommy Dorsey and Nelson Riddle. The James book is one of the finest about a jazz artist.
One of the most respected publicists in the jazz field, over the years Levinson represented Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Erroll Garner and Stan Getz, as well as singers Peggy Lee, Mel Torme and Rosemary Clooney, actor Jack Lemmon and films including Fiddler on the Roof and Kramer vs. Kramer.
Peter was the publisher’s publicist for Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond. He and I were friends since our mutual time in New York in the 1970s. I shall miss his earnest professionalism, advice, kindness and companionship. For more about Peter Levinson, see the Los Angeles Times obituary.