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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Man with the Golden Ear

Don Kirshner (1934 - 2011)

The music world lost a legend when influential music producer, song publisher, manager, and television host Don Kirshner passed away yesterday in Boca Raton, Florida at the age of 76 from heart failure.
Kirshner is best known to the general public as the host of the ABC late-night show Rock Concert, but it was his work behind the scenes that made him the legend. A true pioneer in the music industry Kirshner originally worked in business administration.  He gravitated to the music business in the late 1950's, helping get Bobby Darin's career off the ground and working as the manager of Connie Francis. The latter partnership skyrocketed Francis' career with hits like "Who's Sorry Now", "Stupid Cupid", "My Happiness" and "Among My Souvenirs".

At the same time, Kirshner and Al Nevins formed Aldon Music to capitalize on the surge in rock popularity and opened an office across the street from the celebrated Brill Building in New York. They started by signing Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus and followed by inviting Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Their teams were responsible for many of the hits of the late 50's and early 60's including "Breaking Up is Hard to Do", "On Broadway", "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin", and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow".

Don Kirshner also served as the music director for The Monkees television show, and had a hand in the production of the Monkees' first two albums. He was the force behind the cartoon band the Archies, and ran three labels in the 1960s and 1970s: Chairman, Calendar, and Kirshner, the latter of which launched the band Kansas.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, he hosted the ground breaking television show Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. Rec room dwellers across North America tuned in for this syndicated weekly program that featured diverse bands like the Rolling Stones, Cheap Trick, Black Sabbath, and the Ramones performing live, long-form concerts.

Kirshner’s wide-ranging success in the music business earned him the nickname ‘the Man with the Golden Ear’ from contemporaries. In 2007, Kirshner was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

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