October 23, 2008 / 1:37 AM / 11 years ago

Grateful Dead's powerful legal "Czar" dies

Guitarist Bob Weir (L) and Phil Lesh (R), two of the remaining living members of the band "The Grateful Dead", perform a sound check at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco, California, February 4, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The attorney who brought the Grateful Dead band millions of dollars in revenue during his 35-year stint as their designated “Czar” has succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Hal Kant, who died October 19 in Reno, Nev., was 77.

He is credited with preserving the Dead’s enduring legacy and their valuable intellectual property, including ownership of their music masters and publishing rights (a rare feat in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll).

Lead singer Jerry Garcia has been dead since 1995, yet the band continues to rake in millions of dollars a year through live recordings, merchandise, etc. For example, Garcia’s estate (as well as Save the Rainforest) receives proceeds from every pint of Ben & Jerry’s “Cherry Garcia” ice cream.

So domineering was Kant’s influence that Garcia emblazoned the lawyer’s Grateful Dead business cards with a simple title: “Czar.”

Kant also did work for Janis Joplin, Sonny & Cher, the Association, Stevie Ray Vaughan, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Hot Tuna and Captain Beefheart. He was asked to represent the Doors but turned them down because they asked that he work for them exclusively.

A native of the Bronx, Kant graduated from Harvard University Law School, then got a job as a clerk in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

Once in law practice, he noticed that “the only attorneys in the music business were the attorneys for the record companies, and their job was to get as much money as they could for their company and leave as little as possible for the artists,” he said. “I decided maybe the other guys should have an attorney, too.”

Kant also was an accomplished card player; in 1987, he won the World Series of Poker. Members of the Dead often came to root for him during tournaments.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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