Bruce Gowers, the Emmy and Grammy winner who directed nine-plus seasons of American Idol and hundreds of music videos, including the seminal “Bohemian Rhapsody” from Queen, has died. He was 82.
Gowers died Sunday in Santa Monica of complications from an acute respiratory infection, his family announced.
Gowers also directed and co-created the long-running series of Kidsongs sing-along videos for Warner Bros. Records with his wife, Carol Rosenstein.
A specialist in live events and TV specials, Gowers directed and/or produced the Emmys, the Billboard Music Awards, MTV’s Music Video and Movie awards, the ESPYs, the People’s Choice Awards and many other award shows.
He called the shots for 234 episodes of American Idol from 2002-11, from the first season to the 10th, according to IMDb, and won his Emmy for outstanding directing for a variety, music or comedy series in 2009.
His Grammy trophy came in 1986 for his work on the music video for Huey Lewis and the News’ “Heart of Rock and Roll.” Eight years later, he received a DGA award for helming the CBS special Genius: A Night for Ray Charles.
Gowers’ touch on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” filmed at Elstree Studios in London in November 1975 in about three hours for the BBC’s Top of the Pops, helped Freddie Mercury and his mates find superstardom and proved to be a defining moment in the history of the music video business.
It was the first music video ever aired by the influential Top of the Pops, and he said he got $590 for the gig.
“It changed the way music was perceived; everyone was doing videos and bands were seeing their sales and chart positions rise if their videos were good,” he told the Daily Mail in 2018.
“The only thing that upsets me is that they have been using my video for 40 years, and they have never paid me a dime or said thank you.”
Gowers also directed music videos for Rod Stewart (“Hot Legs” and more), Michael Jackson (“Rock With You”), Prince (“1999”), John Mellencamp (“Jack and Diane”), The Rolling Stones (“Fool to Cry”), Rush (“Limelight,” “Tom Sawyer”), Ambrosia (“How Much I Feel”), 10cc (“I’m Not in Love”), Bee Gees (“How Deep Is Your Love”), Supertramp (“Goodbye Stranger”), Chaka Kahn (“I’m Every Woman”), Peaches and Herb (“Reunited”), Journey (“Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’”) and The Tubes (“Prime Time”).
Gowers was born on Dec. 21, 1940, in New Kilbride, Scotland, where his British parents, Robert, an educator, and Violet, a homemaker, were stationed during World War II. He grew up in Enfield, North London, and graduated from The Latymer School.
He attended the BBC Training College and started his career at the BBC, where he was a cable puller, cameraman and production manager before landing producing and directing positions at the Rediffusion and London Weekend Television networks.
Gowers relocated to the U.S. in the ’70s and met Rosenstein on the music video shoot for Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night.” He also worked with Elton John, The Pretenders, Santana, Van Halen, REO Speedwagon, Christopher Cross, Genesis and Fleetwood Mac during his career.
For the past 23 years, he and Rosenstein resided in Malibu.
In addition to his wife, survivors include his daughter, Katharine; son Sean; grandchildren Sean Jr., Robert, Charlotte and Layla; his former wife, Charlene; and his beloved bulldogs, Baby and Rocky, and parrot, Polly.
Gowers, his family noted, “always brought boundless enthusiasm, energy, passion and joy to his work. He loved and was loved by the crews that he worked with and was known far and wide for his generosity as a colleague, constantly encouraging and promoting the talented people on his team.
“Funny, irreverent and wonderfully candid, he will be remembered in countless legendary stories that will keep his charming spirit alive for many years to come. He was always happiest in the control room, on a boat in the Bahamas, and of course, at home with the dogs, friends and family.”
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