Billboard is reporting that Bob Mercer, battle-hardened music industry legend and the CEO of the company behind the wildly popular Now That's What I Call Music! series died after battling lung Cancer. Before bringing all the hottest pop hits in one affordable CD to a grateful American populace, Mercer worked as a managing director of EMI and signed artists to the label such as Olivia Newton-John, Marc Bolan, Kate Bush and Queen.

Mercer left EMI in 1980: he'd reportedly been disillusioned with the company since it dropped the Sex Pistols in 1977 (a debacle indelibly chronicled in the seminal punk band's "EMI"). He went on to manage Paul McCartney and run Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville label.

But it was as the head of Polygram's TV marketing division that he made his most indelible impression on pop culture as the CEO of the Now That's What I Call Music series, a Zeitgeist-friendly series that inspired my column THEN THAT'S WHAT THEY CALLED MUSIC! Mercer's funeral will reportedly feature all of today's top smashes from artists like Black Eyed Peas, Drake, Akon featuring T-Pain and the Pussycat Dolls.

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