Don Kirshner, Song Publisher, Dies January 17, 2011
Don Kirshner died of heart failure today, January 17, 2011 at the age of 76 in Boca Raton, Florida. Known as The Man With the Golden Ear, Kirshner was an American song publisher and rock producer who is best known for managing songwriters as well as successful bands, such as The Monkees and The Archies. (Trending News - January 17, 2011)
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, Howard Greenfield, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Jack Keller.
As a producer-promoter, Kirshner was influential in starting off the career of singers and songwriters, including Bobby Darin, 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
Kirshner also 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, which had early hits by The Archies and 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.
In the early 1960s, Kirshner was a successful music publisher as head of his own company, Aldon Music, with Al Nevins, bringing performers such as Bobby Darin together with songwriters and musicians.
Kirshner was hired by the producers of The Monkees to provide hitworthy 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 wasn't because of any lack of Monkee talent — Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork were already experienced musicians,though as a band they had little experience or polish and Micky Dolenz was completely new to drums — but to emphasize comedy over music, and to churn out ready-to-go recordings to give each new episode its own song. Each Monkee was retained for vocal duties, but they weren't allowed to play on the records.
The formula worked phenomenally well: Singles "Last Train to Clarksville" and "I'm a Believer"; 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 another chance to all 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 hadn't 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 the band's consent, led to his dismissal. The initial B-side was replaced with a Nesmith song, performed by the Monkees, and they performed on the next year's recordings, featured in the show's second season. Monkees record sales dropped by nearly half after Kirshner's departure.
Kirshner's later venture was The Archies, an animated series where there were only the studio musicians to be managed.
Rock Concert television show
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. Many consider it the predecessor to MTV, even though the latter features many lip-synced performances.
The program presented many of the most successful rock bands of the era, but what was consistent week-to-week was Kirshner's deliberately 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.
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!"