Rock Promoter Don Kirshner Dies at Age 76

Music publisher Don Kirshner AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano

Music business legend Don Kirshner
AP

NEW YORK (CBS/AP) Music business legend Don Kirshner, who paved the way for both boy bands and rock groups, like The Monkees was a 'believer' in his talents, and in his passing he leaves behind his imprint on the music industry.

The successful rock promoter whom Time magazine once dubbed the "Man With the Golden Ear," died Monday in a Florida hospital, a close friend and business associate said. He was 76.

Kirshner was in a hospital in Boca Raton being treated for an infection, according to promoter Jack Wishna.

"Donny Kirshner would take a kid off the street, bring him up to his office in the Brill Building and turn him into Neil Diamond, Carol King, James Taylor, on and on," Wishna said. "I haven't spoken to anyone in the music business that Donny hasn't either discovered, promoted, or touched in some way. I've never seen anybody like this in my life," he said.

Kirshner, not only had "a golden ear," but he had a golden Midas-like touch and was the first to really give rock music a platform to shine.

He was behind "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert" in 1972, and gave national exposure to musicians including Billy Joel and The Police. The show also boosted careers of comics including Billy Crystal, Arsenio Hall and David Letterman.

The show also featured artists Kirshner helped launch including Prince, The Eagles, Lionel Richie and Ozzy Osborne.

According to the Los Angeles Times, "his taste in booking crossed boundaries, and was influential in the 1970s for highlighting budding hard rock bands such as Black Sabbath, Rush, Montrose and Kansas." He also brought forth the first national broadcasts of the first wave of punk rockers such as the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and Devo.

The business savvy Kirshner "was a pioneer who developed a system for singer-songrwriters to share in the profits of selling music," Wishna adds.

Kirshner also ran three labels, Dimension Records, Colgems Records and Kirshner Records.

Before he died, Kirshner was chief creative officer of Rockrena, a company launching this year to find and promote talent online.

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