Don Kirshner

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Don Kirshner
Dionne Warwick, Don Kirschner, Helen Reddy Olivia Newton-John 1974.JPG
Kirschner with Dionne Warwick, Helen Reddy and Olivia Newton-John in 1974.
Born Donald Clark Kirshner
(1934-04-17)April 17, 1934
Bronx, New York, USA
Died January 17, 2011(2011-01-17) (aged 76)
Boca Raton, Florida, USA
Nationality United States
Alma mater Upsala College
Occupation
Years active 1950s–2011
Known for Don Kirshner's Rock Concert
Spouse(s) Sheila Grod Kirshner (1959–2011, his death)
Children 2
Parents
  • Gilbert Kirshner
  • Belle Jaffe

Donald Clark Kirshner (April 17, 1934 – January 17, 2011)[1] known as The Man With the Golden Ear, was an American music publisher, rock music producer, talent manager, and songwriter. He was best known for managing songwriting talent as well as successful pop groups, such as The Monkees, Kansas, and The Archies.[2]

Early life[edit]

Don Kirshner was born to Gilbert Kirshner, a tailor, and Belle Jaffe in The Bronx, New York. He graduated from George Washington High School in Manhattan,[3] and went on to study at Upsala College in East Orange, New Jersey.[4]

Aldon Music[edit]

Main article: Aldon Music

Kirshner achieved his first major success in the late 1950s and early 1960s as co-owner of the influential New York-based publishing company Aldon Music with partner Al Nevins, which had under contract at various times several of the most important songwriters of the so-called "Brill Building" school, including Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond, Paul Simon, Phil Spector, Howard Greenfield, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Jack Keller.

As a producer-promoter, Kirshner was instrumental in launching the careers of singers and songwriters, including Bobby Darin, with whom he collaborated on a number of advertising jingles and pop "ditties" - their first was called Bubblegum Pop.[5] He was also responsible for finding Neil Diamond, Carole King, and Sarah Dash of Labelle, as well as discovering the occasional rock act, such as Kansas.

Don Kirshner's record labels[edit]

Kirshner had three record labels. The first was Chairman Records, a subsidiary of London Records. Although he was responsible for scores of hits in the 1960s, he was only to have one on the Chairman label – 1963's "Martian Hop" by The Ran-Dells – which reached #16 nationally. Kirshner later had two other record labels: Calendar Records, which had early hits by The Archies; and later Morphed into the Kirshner label, which had later hits by The Archies and Kansas. Calendar/Kirshner recordings were first distributed by RCA Records, then CBS Records. He was also involved in Dimension Records.

The Monkees[edit]

In the early 1960s, Kirshner was a successful music publisher as head of his own company, Aldon Music, which later was sold to Screen Gems-Columbia Music. With Al Nevins, Kirshner brought performers such as Bobby Darin together with songwriters and musicians. He'd later became president of COLGEMS, a subsidiary of the COLPIX label, in 1966.

Kirshner was hired by the producers of The Monkees to provide hit-worthy songs to accompany the television program, within a demanding schedule. Kirshner quickly corralled songwriting talent from his Brill Building stable of writers and musicians to create catchy, engaging tracks which the band could pretend to perform on the show. This move was not because of any lack of the Monkees’ talent but required in order to keep up with the demanding schedule to churn out ready-to-go recordings to give each week's episode its own song. While Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork were already experienced musicians — and Davy Jones was an established musical performer — as a working band, they had little experience; and Micky Dolenz was completely new to drums. Each Monkee was retained for vocal duties but they did not actually play instruments on the records.

The formula worked phenomenally well – the singles "Last Train to Clarksville" written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and "I'm a Believer" and the first two Monkees albums were produced and released in time to catch the initial wave of the television program's popularity. Future Taj Mahal and John Lennon guitarist Jesse Ed Davis sat in on guitar. After a year, the Monkees wanted a chance to play their own instruments on the records. They also wanted additional oversight into which songs would be released as singles. Further, when word belatedly came out that the band had not played on the first season's songs, a controversy arose, and the public expressed a desire to hear the television stars perform their own music.

The matter reached a breaking point over a disagreement regarding the Neil Diamond-penned "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" in early 1967. The song, released by Kirshner as a single without Columbia Pictures' consent, [6] led to his dismissal. The planned B-side was replaced with "The Girl I Knew Somewhere", a song written by Nesmith and performed by the Monkees. They also performed on the next year's recordings which were featured in the show's second season.

Kirshner's later venture was The Archies, an animated series where there were only the studio musicians to be managed.

Producer[edit]

Beginning in 1970 Kirshner produced a series of made for TV movies.[7]

Don Kirshner's Rock Concert[edit]

In the fall of 1972, Kirshner was asked by ABC Television to serve as executive producer and "creative consultant" for their new "In Concert" series, which aired every other week in the 11:30 p.m. slot normally showing The Dick Cavett Show. The following September, Kirshner left "In Concert" to produce and host his own syndicated weekly rock-concert program called Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. With its long-form live performances, as compared to rehearsed, often lip-synced performances that were the staple of earlier television shows like Shindig!, it was a new direction for pop music presentation. The last show aired in 1981, the year that MTV was launched.

The program presented many of the most successful rock bands of the era, but what was consistent week-to-week was Kirshner's deliberately[citation needed] "flat" delivery as the program host. In its final season, Rock Concert was mostly hosted by Kirshner's son and daughter, whose delivery was the same as their father's. Kirshner's "wooden" presentation style was later lampooned on Saturday Night Live by Paul Shaffer, most notably in Shaffer's introduction of the Blues Brothers during the duo's television debut. Shaffer and Kirshner worked together on the short-lived situation comedy, A Year at the Top, which Kirshner co-produced with Norman Lear, and in which Shaffer starred.[8]

In the Blue Öyster Cult song "The Marshall Plan", from the album Cultösaurus Erectus, Don Kirshner's voice is sampled to introduce the fictitious Johnny: "This is Don Kirshner. And tonight on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, a new phenomenon in the music world – with six million albums to his credit in just two short years, my good friend, here's Johnny!"

Later career[edit]

Kirshner received the 2007 Songwriters Hall of Fame Abe Olman Publishing Award.[9] He was a creative consultant for Rockrena, a company founded by Jack Wishna, and launched in 2011 to promote new music talent online.[10] He died of heart failure in a Boca Raton, Florida hospital on January 17, 2011, at age 76, survived by his wife of 50 years, Sheila; his son, Ricky; daughter, Daryn Lewis; and five grandchildren.[11][12][13]

On April 14, 2012, Don Kirshner was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Further reading[edit]

  • Podolsky, Rich (2012) Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear: How He Changed the Face of Rock and Roll. Hal Leonard Publishing. ISBN 1-4584-1670-4

References[edit]

  1. ^ Los Angeles Times obituary, 12/27/2011
  2. ^ New York Times obituary, 01/19/2011
  3. ^ Wisdom of the Aged: Observations by Todd Everett 01/18/2011
  4. ^ Schudel, Matt (18 January 2012). "Don Kirshner, hit-making rock impresario of the 1960s, dies at 76". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 January 2012. 
  5. ^ "Don Kirshner". The Daily Telegraph (London). April 18, 2011. 
  6. ^ Harold Bronson, ed. (October 1996). Hey, hey, we're the Monkees. Santa Monica, Calif.: General Pub. Group. p. 67. ISBN 1575440121. 
  7. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0004148/
  8. ^ A Year at the Top at the Internet Movie Database
  9. ^ Kirshner award info/biography at Songwriters Halll of Fame website
  10. ^ "Rock promoter Don Kirshner, dubbed the 'Man with the Golden Ear,' dies at 76 in Florida"
  11. ^ CNN.com, "Rock producer and Monkees hit-maker Don Kirshner dead at 76", 18 January 2011 (accessed 29 December 2011)
  12. ^ Sam Thielman (January 18, 2011). "Don Kirshner, music publisher and producer, dies". Variety. Retrieved January 18, 2011. 
  13. ^ Matt Schudel (January 18, 2011). "Don Kirshner, hit-making rock impresario of the 1960s, dies at 76". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 18, 2011. 

External links[edit]