Mary Ellen Cataneo, who held a number of prestigious leadership roles in the music industry, has died after battling an aggressive cancer. She was 65.
Cataneo was an ambitious and passionate executive, who early on in her career graduated from New York University and waited tables at a restaurant alongside a young Jerry Seinfeld before getting her first industry job doing administation for Musician magazine.
In 1984, at age 30, Cataneo started at Columbia Records. There, she rose through the ranks quickly, becoming vp national press and public information. Cataneo ran publicity campaigns for some of the most legendary artists of our time, including Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, Ray Davies and The Kinks, and Harry Connick, Jr.
After Columbia, Cataneo went on to Sony Music Entertainment, where she served as senior vp publicity until 1995, when she stepped down in order to raise her two sons, James McEwen and Christopher McEwen.
"Mary Ellen was a dear friend and a cherished colleague," Shore Fire Media president and former Columbia publicity exec Marilyn Laverty tells Billboard. "She joined the Columbia Records publicity staff after working in the editorial department at Musician magazine, and she was quickly recognized as a uniquely talented publicist and executive thanks to her deep knowledge of music, her fun loving personality, her great love of artists, tremendous capacity for hard work, and most of all her ferocious commitment to supporting artists and music.
"Mary Ellen’s star qualities made her the natural candidate to head Columbia’s publicity department starting in 1990 (when I left the label) and she had great success there, the launch of Mariah Carey just one of her credits, before she was promoted to SVP for Sony’s corporate PR. Anyone who worked with Mary Ellen will remember her sharp intellect, her hearty laugh, her very knowing smile, and her warmth. We have lost a great music and PR veteran way too soon."
Cataneo is survived by her sons and their father, music industry executive Joe McEwan. The family has said that Cataneo was able to attend her son Christopher's wedding in August, calling it a "joyous and celebratory" day.