RIP: Don Kirshner

Posted January 19, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in News

Rock impresario and TV host Don Kirshner dies at the age of 76

Before MTV exploded into the cable universe and NBC’s Friday Night Videos lit up the airwaves in the Eighties with music programming, rock impresario Don Kirshner had already whipped up his brand of live rock ‘n soul with his very own show. Between 1973 and 1981, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert boasted live performances from some of the hottest names in town. Watching his show guaranteed viewers the best entertainment in music for free. Acts like Cher, David Bowie, the Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, the Rolling Stones, Donna Summer, KISS, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Bee Gees, Bruce Springsteen, the Police, Lynard Synard, Rick James, the Ramones and Stevie Wonder decorated the late-night marquees of Kirshner’s hit show.

Known to many as the “Man with the Golden Ear,” Kirshner, who died at the age of 76 from heart failure on January 17, started working in the music business as a a co-owner of Aldon Music, which supervised a great number of songwriters and singers who worked in the Brill Building including Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Cynthia Weil, Neil Sedaka and Jack Keller. With Kirshner’s hand of blessing and overseeing much of the production there, hit songs were made for acts like Neil Diamond and Bobby Darin. He went on to oversee the musical career of the Monkees while on their television program; yielding them some of their career’s biggest hits (“I’m a Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville”). By the time the ’70’s arrived, Kirshner was approached by ABC to spearhead “In Concert;” a 90-minute television series airing on Friday nights featuring hot music groups and acts. He quickly realized that he could pull off his own show and left the show in 1973 to develop ‘Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.’ The show quickly became a success, even beating NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carsonin certain markets. No lip-synching here was prohibited, just rock ‘n rolling for ninty minutes.

At the time of his death, Kirshner was retired from the music biz and lived in sunny Boca Raton, Florida along with his wife Shelia. Paul Shaffer, longtime friend of Kirshner, remembers him most for being an absolute lover of music. “He was such a character, so colorful,” says Shaffer, who worked on a TV pilot with Kirshner in the Seventies and parodied him often on ‘Saturday Night Live’ using his dry on-air delivery. “If he loved a record, he’d call people from the studio and hold up the phone to the speaker.”

In 2007, Kirshner was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.



Remembering Don Kirshner, Who Influenced Pop from the Brill Building to
Don Kirshner, ‘Rock Concert host, dead of heart failure at age

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Response


Please support HIFI Magazine
By clicking any of these buttons you help our site to get better