Jerry Blair was a promotion executive known for championing major artists early in their careers

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Jerry Blair
Credit: Frank Micelotta/Getty

Promotion executive Jerrold Blair has died at age 60.

On Wednesday, Blair — who was head of promotions at Columbia Records and often went by Jerry — died from COVID-19 complications. Blair played an important role in launching major artists like Mariah Carey, Ricky Martin, Beyoncé, Will Smith, Marc Anthony, Bruce Springsteen, Fugees, Destiny's Child, Aerosmith and more.

Rapper and musician Wyclef Jean of the Fugees remembered Blair as someone who "embraced" all of his artists, despite the color of their skin.

"Jerry Blair was one person who I can say really cared about artists not being put in a box because of the color of their skin or country they came from. He embraced us all," Jean, 51, tells PEOPLE exclusively.  

"As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Fugees album The Score, let history always remember that it was Jerry Blair who fought hard for every single that you enjoy from that album," he continued.

Blair was known for championing Latin music and bringing it into the mainstream market with a "Latin explosion."

In 1999, Blair advocated for Ricky Martin to Tommy Mottola, his boss at the time at Columbia — and orchestrated the classic Grammy performance of "The Cup of Life" that made him a star. The singer would then go on to release "Livin' La Vida Loca," which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"I'm really affected to be honest," Martin, 49, told Billboard. "I hadn't seen Jerry in a long time, but he was one of those people that you liked from the moment you met him."

"His energy was so strong and powerful, He was always present someway, somehow. Sending all my love and support to his family," he continued.

Blair worked in promotions at Columbia as senior VP from 1988 to 1997 and served as executive VP until 2000.

The industry veteran, whose official obituary described him as a "force of nature," is survived by his wife Karen, son Joshua, 27, and daughter Suzette, 9.

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