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="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/133023470/133043165" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR's Neda Ulaby has this remembrance.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO THE LOCO-MOTION")

NEDA ULABY: Don Kirshner once told an interviewer: I can't tell you how good my life story is, but the songs will make a great soundtrack.

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

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ON BROADWAY")

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

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'VE LOST THAT LOVING FEELING")

THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS: (Singing) You've lost that loving feeling...

CYNTHIA WEIL: He really was one of the greatest publishers ever.

ULABY: That's Cynthia Weil. She co-wrote "You've 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.

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

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

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 didn't belong there.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SPLISH SPLASH")

BOBBY DARIN: (Singing) Splish splash, I was taking a bath...

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

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS IS YOUR LIFE")

RALPH EDWARDS: ...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")

EDWARDS: How many, Donny

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)

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: Sugar, ah, honey-honey...

ULABY: 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...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DON KIRSHNER'S ROCK CONCERT")

ULABY: The New Yorker's music editor Ben Greenman barely remembers Kirshner's two TV shows from the 1970s - "In Concert" and "Rock Concert" - when they were first broadcast. But he says, go to YouTube and you'll 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.

BEN GREENMAN: There's just no end of it. If you go back and look, it's a little museum of everything that was good.

KIRSHNER: Displaying high energy and excitement, here they are, New York's own: The Ramones.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ULABY: Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE RAMONES)

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

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