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Arnold S. Caplin, 80

December 25, 2009

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Arnold S. Caplin, 80, died Friday, Dec. 25, 2009, at Kimball Farms Nursing Care Center after a long illness.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on May 8, 1929, he was the son of Isadore and Lillian Tanz Caplin.

A veteran of the Korean War, he served in the U.S. Army Band in Korea.

Mr. Caplin had a long and distinguished career in the music recording industry as a record producer. As founder of Biograph Records Inc. in 1967, he produced more than 250 recordings on LP and CD. He was an early proponent of preserving traditional American music, including blues, jazz, ragtime and folk. A major achievement of his was to revive and bring international attention to the works of Scott Joplin. His dedication also led to the preservation of seminal works by artists such as George Gershwin and Benny Goodman, as well as blues artists such as the Rev. Gary Davis and Son House. His championing of American roots music had far-reaching effects on many musicians during the 1960s and beyond. Many of his recordings have been honored with Grammy nominations and recognition from the Library of Congress.

A man of diverse interests, he also had a lifelong passion for drawing and painting as well as an early career as a professional jazz drummer. He had a zest for life, said family, which brought joy and love to his family and friends.

He leaves his wife of 59 years, Barbara; two sons, Robert Caplin and his wife, Allison, of Arlington and Alan Caplin of Somerville; two sisters, Joan Itzcovitz and her husband, Harold, of New York City and Joyce Dicker of Tucson, Ariz., his beloved grandchildren Nicole and Alexander and many nieces and nephews.

FUNERAL NOTICE — A .emorial service celebrating the life of Mr. Caplin will be held on Sunday, Jan. 17, at noon at Temple Anshe Amunim, 26 Broad St., Pittsfield.

Memorial contributions may be made to the music fund of Temple Anshe Amunim or to HospiceCare in the Berkshires through Finnerty & Stevens Funeral Home, 426 Main St., Great Barrington, MA 01230, which is in charge of arrangements. Remembrances, memories and reflections may be sent to the family at

Recollections & Sympathy For the Family
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I was surfing the Internet when I saw the notice about Arnie. He was my cousin -- it had been many years since I last saw him, but I have many fond memories of him.

My mother was his mother's sister, and it seems we spent most of our time with them. His younger sister, Joyce, was born the same day as I, and we were raised as "twin cousins."

I remember so well, Arnie banging away on his drums, as we sat spellbound listening to him.

My deepest condolences to his wife, Barbara, and his family.

Barbara Herman
from: Barbara Hermanon: 02-15-2010

Mr. Caplin's great work of reissuing various early Blues & Jazz on his Biograph Label has enriched my life more than I can begin to describe here. Between his Biograph Records and Yazoo's LP reissues, I found a musical path that I am still on to this very day. As a teenager with a guitar, I played Biograph's complete Blind Blake series over & over, groove by groove... until I got it right... Well, I got some of it right anyway. That stuff is still a challenge. ha! Hats off to Arnold S. Caplin!!!
from: JJ Holidayon: 01-17-2010

Sorry to learn of Arnie's passing. He was one of the pioneers of the resurgent independent record business in the 1970s in particular, and Biograph was one of the strong labels that Rounder distributed.
from: Bill Nowlinon: 01-16-2010

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