Brian Samuel Epstein (; 19 September 1934 – 27 August 1967) was an English music entrepreneur who managed the Beatles.
Epstein was born into a family of successful retailers in Liverpool, who put him in charge of their music shop. Here he displayed a remarkable gift for talent-spotting, and got a strong intuition about the potential of an unknown 4-man group, The Beatles, at a lunchtime concert at Liverpool’s Cavern Club in 1961. Although he had no experience of artist management, Epstein put them under contract and insisted that they abandon their scruff-image in favour of a new clean-cut style, with identical suits and haircuts. He then persuaded George Martin of the prestigious EMI group to produce their records. In August 1962, drummer Pete Best was replaced with Ringo Starr, and the group’s familiar line-up was established.
Within months, the Beatles’ fame had swept the world, and Epstein accompanied them to America, where he was besieged by merchandising offers, but had signed away 90% of the rights in advance. This is viewed as his one miscalculation. Some of Epstein’s other young discoveries had also prospered at this time under his management. They included Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, Tommy Quickly, and Cilla Black, his only female client.
As a gay man, Epstein had to observe great discretion in public, since homosexuality was still illegal in the UK, although he tolerated a certain amount of banter about it in private. (Lennon quipped that his memoirs A Cellarful of Noise should have been titled A Cellarful of Boys.) On the day of his death, a group of rent boys had failed to arrive by appointment at his country house, and he returned to London, where he died of a drug overdose, ruled as accidental.
He was widely referred to as the Fifth Beatle. When the group were each awarded the MBE, people joked that it stood for ‘Mr. Brian Epstein’.