Concert promoter and rock and roll publisher Don Kirshner, aka ‘The Man with the Golden Ear’ died today, January 17, 2011, of a heart attack in Boca Raton, FL.. He was 76 years old.
Known in the early 60’s as a songwriter and producer, he was a staple among the Brill Building group of music industry impresarios. He was hired by the producers of the Monkees to write songs simple and catchy enough for a band to pretend to play to, before the actors in the group were even hired. After it was discovered that the Monkees did not play (but did sing) on any of their initial songs and the band demanded increased input on their releases, Kirshner bowed out, resulting in a surprising drop of their record sales. He later worked on the music for the Archies, the animated band that released “Sugar, Sugar.”
In the early 70’s, Kirshner helped develop an early concert series for ABC Television, “In Concert.” After a single season, he left to develop his own “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert,” noted for airing actual live performances compared to the lip-syncing acts that other shows aired. Though his own hosting was deliberately flat (perhaps to lend even more sense of the spectacular to an already thrillingly live show), the show was also welcoming to some of the more extreme acts of the time, including Pink Floyd, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and David Bowie. The show ran from 1973-1981.