Elliot Roberts speaks onstage during the “Neil Young Journeys” Q&A at the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival held at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on June 18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Born Elliot Rabinowitz in 1943, Roberts was prominent in the rise of the Laurel Canyon music scene throughout the ’60s and ’70s. He managed Mitchell early in her career, when she was living in New York. The two moved to Los Angeles together in 1967 with her then-boyfriend, David Crosby.
That same year, Roberts formed Lookout Management with agent David Geffen, and eventually created Asylum Records, which signed major artists like the Eagles. Lookout Management worked with Tom Petty, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Talking Heads and Morrissey, among many others. Roberts’ most famous manager-client relationship was with Young, which began in 1969 and continued until Roberts’ death.
In a 2016 interview, Roberts spoke to Billboard about a planned deep dive into Young’s film archives to allow a new generation of fans to discover the music legend and see him in action throughout his career. “Neil had a lot of things that were important to us — not because they sold well,” Roberts said at the time. “I think of it as we’re introducing him to a younger audience, a new audience. We know there’s our core audience that’s 50-70 or so. That’s always been the case, and it’s nice to actually have. But it’s like discovering Dylan — you may like EDM, but at some point in your life you’ll be into Dylan and you’ll get it, whether you’re 23, 24, 21 or 26. Discovering Neil or discovering those catalogs, that material. It’s still fun for Neil to create. He doesn’t mind going back or going forward.”
In Young’s 2012 memoir Waging Heavy Peace, the rocker explained why his partnership with Roberts worked so well for so long. “Because I tend to avoid the confrontations and delivering bad news, I am not good at doing any of that; Elliot is. He knows how to communicate where I don’t. … Just as I wake up every day with a new idea, he wakes up every day with a new approach to solving the problems that arise with the projects I am already immersed in. There are a lot of them. This is our pattern.”