Don Kirshner, A Force In The Music Business, Dies : The Record The music publisher and TV producer put rock on TV in the 1970s.
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Don Kirshner, A Force In The Music Business, Dies

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Don Kirshner, A Force In The Music Business, Dies

Don Kirshner, A Force In The Music Business, Dies

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Die-hard music fans of a certain age will remember Don Kirshner. The music publisher and producer helped to bring hundreds of hits to radio and television, and died Monday of heart failure in Florida at the age of 76.

NPR's Neda Ulaby has this remembrance.

(Soundbite of song, "Do the Loco-Motion")

NEDA ULABY: Don Kirshner once told an interviewer: I cant tell you how good my life story is, but the songs will make a great soundtrack.

LITTLE EVA (Singer): (Singing) Everybody is doing a brand new dance now...

(Soundbite of song, "On Broadway")

The DRIFTERS (Singing Group): (Singing) They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway...

(Soundbite of song, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling")

THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS (Singing Duo): (Singing) Youve lost that loving feeling...

Ms. CYNTHIA WEIL (Songwriter): He really was one of the greatest publishers ever.

ULABY: Thats Cynthia Weil. She co-wrote "Youve Lost that Loving Feeling" with her husband Barry Mann. Don Kirshner signed them to his music publishing company when they were in their early 20's.

Ms. WEIL: All of his writers were like a pack of crazy kids who all wanted to talk to him.

ULABY: Kirshners writers included Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond. And Cynthia Weil says theyd all camp out in front of his office in the Brill Building to get his attention.

Ms. WEIL: And I remember once chasing after him and getting halfway into men's room before we both realized where he was and where I was and that I didnt belong there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, "Splish Splash")

Mr. BOBBY DARIN (Singer/Actor): (Singing) Splish splash, I was taking a bath...

ULABY: Singer Bobby Darin was Kirshners ticket into the music industry. They met right after high school and - lets fast-forward to 1959. Bobby Darin is on a famous show that reunited celebrities with people from their pasts. Its "This Is Your Life," and theyve hit the point when Darin turned 18.

(Soundbite of TV show, "This Is Your Life")

Mr. RALPH EDWARDS (Host, "This Is Your Life"): ...writing songs and you find a songwriting partner and here he is now, now president of Nevins-Kirshner Music Limited from New York City, your best man at his wedding, Donny Kirshner.

(Soundbite of applause)

ULABY: The singer and his producer reminisced with the host, Ralph Edwards, about their start trying to write songs.

(Soundbite of TV show, "This Is Your Life")

Mr. EDWARDS: How many, Donny

Mr. DARIN: Well, we wrote about 25, Ralph. And 10 of them were published. None of them were real big hits. They were bombs.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KIRSHNER: They were probably all bombs.

ULABY: From that humble beginning, Kirshner built a publishing and recording powerhouse, so successful he sold it in 1961 to Columbia. He became president of one of its music divisions. There, he laid the foundation of a legacy in prefab pop.

(Soundbite of song, "Sugar Sugar")

ULABY: It was Kirshner who helped assemble the Monkees and later, the Archies -an animated group on the kids TV show that sold over six million copies of this.

THE ARCHIES (Singing Group): Sugar, ah, honey-honey...

ULABY: Don Kirshner was visionary when it came to music on TV. Thats not to say he was loose or charismatic hosting it.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert")

Mr. Don Kirshner (Host, "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert"): Canada is stirring musically, and one of the forerunners of action from the north is the boogying group the Guess Who...

ULABY: The New Yorkers music editor Ben Greenman barely remembers Kirshners two TV shows from the 1970s "In Concert" and "Rock Concert" when they were first broadcast. But he says, go to YouTube and youll thank Kirshner for some of the earliest TV appearances of a ton of great rock bands: Led Zeppelin, Sly and the Family Stone, The Police.

Mr. BEN GREENMAN (Music Critic, The New Yorker): Theres just no end of it. If you go back and look, its a little museum of everything that was good.

Mr. KIRSHNER: Displaying high energy and excitement, here they are, New Yorks own: The Ramones.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

ULABY: Don Kirshner was part of a generation of older music executives who kept an ear glued to the ground and a heart spread wide when it came to the music that young people loved.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(Soundbite of The Ramones)

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep.


And Im Renee Montagne.

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