Don Kirshner – Man of Starch and Stars

What happens when the music industry puts one of their suits in front of the camera to introduce us to every rock act that every broke a sweat or swirled in a silk scarf?

Don Kirshner. Hey, somebody give that guy a nudge….the RAMONES are on!

Don Kirshner and his beloved tele-prompter were living proof that the execs could come out from behind the desk but that was about it. Nonetheless, an entrepreneur with a touch of gold and the personality of a fish, made it happen for anyone who tuned into Rock Concert in the sideburns and patchouli days of the 21st century. Before my friends and I  were old enough to buy a ticket or go by ourselves to an honest to gawd concert, we could see it in the safety of our living rooms.

His savvy was fresh but his body language was mute. Maybe that was the point of putting him in the spotlight to deliver the biographical ramp up to so many rock ‘n’ rollers. We have to remember that it was pre-MTV that he was producing this show, so hats off.

He was old school, born in the Bronx and clicked with the burgeoning rock music industry without having to flip nary a burger. Instead, he wound up networking a bellhop in the Catskills. (You know, where “Dirty Dancing” was spawned among the privileged?) It’s the stuff of legend and the kid did it all without an iPhone.

Cutting is industry teeth and thousands of songs in the heyday of the songwriter’s mellow brick road, a mythical NYC business sector known as Tin Pan Alley mined one gold record after another in the historic Brill Building. Rising stars like Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka and Neil Diamond, were brought out of the author’s pool and into recording and performing halls of fame by Kirshner.

With the pop packaging of The Archies and The Monkees, his fate was sealed in the formula hit biz. Lots of sugar and loaded with preservatives, Kirchner’s offerings have proved to have an eternal shelf life with American music.

I became totally immersed in everything Monkee in 1967 and have not yet come up for air.

The bizarre part of it all was the juxtaposed relationship to Kirshner and such acts as The Ramones, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Seals & Crofts, Allman Brothers (all of them in the 8-track collection of any Ford Econoline van in the 70s),  was almost awkward. Yet an intro from the wooden master launched equal amounts of stars and their fans.

So, thanks for the good times, Mr. Kirshner and I hope that there is no starch in your heavenly wings.

Don Kirshner (April 17, 1934 – January 17, 2011)

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