The music executive who got U2 their first record deal, died today after a two-year battle with cancer.

Rob Partridge signed the band to Island records in 1980 when they were unknowns struggling for recognition.

He remained the band's publicist for many years and a friend of frontman Bono.

As Head of Press and later Media Director for the label, he dealt with artists like Bob Marley, Grace Jones, Tom Waits and Marianne Faithfull.

A pivotal figure at the label, he reportedly taught Grace Jones to swim and organised football matches for Marley.

Mr Partridge left Island in 1990 to set up his own public relations agency, Partridge and Storey which later became Coalition PR.

Sixties icon Marianne Faithfull said: '(He was) one of the greatest men I have known and a great man to work with. I don't know what I will do without him, we have been friends for so long.'

Johnny Marr, former guitarist with The Smiths, said 'Rob was a lovely guy, gentle and polite, but not above good devilish humour. He loved soulful music and working with soulful artists, because he was soulful himself.'

He died, aged 60, of liver and bowel cancer and leaves his wife, Tina.