In Memoriam – Ethel Gabriel

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Rochester, NY – April 2021… The record industry has lost a giant whose pioneering career was ironically almost unknown. Ethel Gabriel was one of the first, probably one of the most prolific, and certainly one of the most groundbreaking women in the recording industry.
Gabriel began her career at RCA Records in the 1940s, labeling and packing records, and quickly worked her way up the ranks to become one of the label’s leading A&R executives, working with artists as varied as Elvis Presley, Tommy Dorsey, Dolly Parton, Perry Como, and Glenn Miller, to name just a few.
Even had she not broken gender barriers in the record industry, Ethel Gabriel’s career would have been remarkable. In 44 years with RCA Records, she produced over 5,000 releases, earning fifteen Gold records. She single-handedly rescued RCA’s failing Camden label and built it into a powerhouse, and created the label’s hugely successful Living Strings series in 1968. She was the first woman to receive an RIAA Gold Record in 1959, the first woman to receive a Grammy for Best Historical Album, and in 1982 she became the first woman in the industry to be named to a VP position at a major label. She retired from RCA in 1984 but remained active in the industry independently for a number of years.
Despite working in a male-dominated industry during an era where women were rarely acknowledged, Ethel Gabriel excelled and flourished, surpassing her male counterparts at everything she took on. While she never hesitated to speak her mind, during her long career she often opted to simply do what she was good at, even when frequently passed over for promotions in favor of her less deserving male counterparts. Even her passing has been barely acknowledged by many of the industry’s leaders and trade organizations.
Toward the end of her time at RCA, Gabriel began to find her voice as a powerful advocate for women in the industry, becoming involved with Women in Music and pushing RCA to fund a women’s group for lectures and seminars. In 1990 she publicly spoke out against the industry’s “boys club” in a widely shared letter to Billboard Magazine.
Ethel Gabriel’s story is being captured in “Living Sound,” a documentary film about her life and career. The film, directed by Caroline Losneck and Christoph Gelfand with Lead Researcher April Tucker, in association with SoundGirls, is expected to be released in late 2021.
For more information on Ethel Gabriel and the Living Sound documentary, visit Livingsoundfilm.com or click the social media links below: