Sad news this afternoon as we note and praise one of House Music’s most dynamic forces on her passing.
Judy Russell of Vinylmania, Movin’ Records, Nu Groove and Downtown161 has died, according to a post from Ben Goldfarb. Goldfarb writes that Russell “passed suddenly on Tuesday after going into cardiac arrest just one day after being diagnosed with an advanced malignant tumor on her kidney.”
“If you’ve been around house music in America,” 5 Mag wrote a year ago, “there’s a pretty good chance that Judy Russell is responsible for a fair amount of your record collection, either selling it (at Vinylmania [and Movin’ Records] in the ’80s), signing it (at legendary NYC golden age label Nu Groove or Citi Records) or, most recently, selling the records you love to the people who sold them to you via the (then) defunct Downtown161.”
A year ago, Goldfarb spearheaded a fundraising campaign to help Russell, who had been out of work “for years” from health problems and, he revealed today, had spent “two years in homeless shelters, telling almost no one.”
“Being a person who has always worked hard for everything she had, and taken care of herself from an early age, she was very hesitant to ask her friends for help,” Goldfarb wrote. “She didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. But sometimes we all need a helping hand.”
Judy Russell left her mark on a thousand people, and helped launch and support hundreds of producers’ and DJs’ careers. It’s impossible to consider the number of classic records from the likes of Kerri Chandler, Tony Humphries, Frankie Knuckles, etc. that passed through her hands, having either been signed, championed or promoted by Russell.
Tony Humphries remembered Judy Russell and a relationship that stretched back to 1978. Russell taught him “not to emotionally cry over each release I put out and always said ‘if it’s a hit, the public will tell you. If it isn’t a hit, move on.’ She was my advisor and protector. If a title didn’t sell a lot, she’d buy the remaining pressings. She was such a giving person. I owed her so much. She was a special person and a special friend.
“The world has lost another great one. I’m saddened, but feel very fortunate to have received all that I did. Rest in peace Judy. You’ll sorely be missed.”
According to Goldfarb, Judy had been living in a new furnished apartment in the Bronx since May and was “relieved, overwhelmed and excited to rebuild her life, furnishing the place, and planning to adopt a puppy. Three weeks ago I stopped by to bring her some of her more prized possessions, which I had been keeping safe for her: An original Bugs Bunny film cel, an autographed photo of Cal Ripken Jr., and the poster from her benefit party, signed by her friends …
“I knew her re-entry would be rough and she faced challenges. But I never imagined this would be the last I’d see her. We hugged and I promised to visit soon. Love you Judy. I hope you are released from all suffering, dancing in Paradise 4evr.”
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Rest In Paradise! to my dear friend & beloved legend Judy Russell who passed suddenly on Tuesday after going into cardiac arrest just one day after being diagnosed with an advanced malignant tumor on her kidney. From the Paradise Garage to Vinylmania to Movin’ Records to Nu Groove to Downtown, she helped launch many careers & touched many lives with her sharp wit, humility & grumpy charm. When we met she had already fallen on hard times. She’d been out of work for years with health issues & had lost touch with most of her community bc she was ashamed of her situation. Then things got worse. She got very sick, and while in the hospital was evicted by her landlord (illegally) for owing rent. She would spend the next two years in homeless shelters, telling almost no one. Along with Barbie & Paul at Love Injection I did a fundraiser for her to try to help her get back on her feet. During that time her happiest moments were volunteering at the local library (she was a voracious reader), managing my discogs store & working the door at Sutherland. And toward the end, pretending she was working nights so that she could get away and spend the night in a hotel, a brief respite from the prison-like & toxic conditions at the shelter. On May 23 she finally got out for good & moved into her own brand new furnished apartment in the Bronx. She was relieved, overwhelmed & excited to rebuild her life, furnishing the place, & planning to adopt a puppy. Three weeks ago I stopped by to bring her some of her more prized possessions, which I had been keeping safe for her: An original Bugs Bunny film cel, an autographed photo of Cal Ripken Jr., & the poster from her benefit party, signed by her friends. She had just gotten her hair done & she was her usual self, sweet and gruff, and complaining (she hated the Bronx, where she grew up. She moved to Manhattan right after HS and never left). She was wearing a Paradise Garage tee (for my benefit, i think). I knew her re-entry would be rough & she faced challenges. But I never imagined this would be the last I’d see her. We hugged & I promised to visit soon. Love you Judy. I hope you are released from all suffering, dancing in Paradise 4evr