Seymour Stein, the courageous, visionary and highly successful founder of Sire Records who helped launch the careers of Madonna, Talking Heads and many others, died Sunday at the age of 80.
Stein, who helped found the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Rock Hall in 2005, died of cancer in Los Angeles, according to a statement from his family.
Born in 1942, Stein is a native of New York City who, as a teenager, worked summers at Cincinnati-based King Records, James Brown’s label, and by his mid-20s he was co-founded Sire Productions, which soon became Sire Records.
Obsessed with the Billboard music charts from an early age, he was known for his extensive knowledge and appreciation of music, and proved to be a keen talent racer in the music industry. New Wave era of the 1970s, a term he helped popularize, signed a record deal with Talking Heads, the Ramones, and the Pretenders.
“Seymour’s musical taste was always several years ahead of everyone else’s,” Gary Kurfirst, manager of Talking Heads, told Rock Hall around the time Stein was introduced.
His most lucrative discovery occurred in the early 1980s, when he heard a demo tape by a little-known singer-dancer from the downtown New York club scene, Madonna.
“I like Madonna’s voice, I like the feel and I like the name Madonna. I like it all and play it again,” he wrote in his memoir “Siren Song”, published in 2018, the same year he retired. . Stein was hospitalized with a heart infection when he first got to know Madonna, but was so eager to see her that he took her to his room.
He wrote: “She was dressed like a doll in a cheap old suit, the kind of club kid who looked silly out of place in cardiology. “She didn’t even care to hear me explain how much I liked her demo. ‘The thing to do now,” she said, ‘is sign me a record deal. “‘
Sire artists also include Ice T, Smiths, Depeche Mode, Alternatives and Echo and Bunnymen, along with more established Lou Reed and Brian Wilson, who have recorded with Sire later in their careers.
Stein was briefly married to record promoter and real estate executive Linda Adler, with whom he had two children: filmmakers Mandy Stein and Samantha Lee Jacobs, who died of brain cancer. in 2013. Sidney Stein and his wife divorced in the 1970s and years later he came out as gay.
“I am incredibly grateful for every minute our family spent with him and the music he brought to the world for the positive impact on the lives of so many,” Mandy Stein said in a statement. on Sunday.