Music mogul Seymour Stein – famous for signing Madonna for $15,000 while he was in a hospital bed – has died at the age of 80.
The pioneering and bold founder of Sire Records who has also pushed forward
Steve Tyler and Talking Heads, who rose to fame and launched the careers of Depeche Mode, The Ramones and The Cure, died of cancer Sunday (04/02/23) in Los Angeles, according to his family.
His daughter, Mandy Stein, confirmed the news in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, saying, “He never said, ‘I discovered it’ because he really believed that good music would be found and he was a collaborative person and paid tribute to everyone was part of his team.
“But I think of all the music and artists that he signed and jumped on planes and went to[places]unknown… all those amazing stories of how he went to Yonkers to hear Steven Tyler before he was Steven Tyler.” , and he would go anywhere to hear great music, and he was so passionate and really wouldn’t stop if he believed in an artist.”
Mandy also hailed her father as a “doting grandfather” and “ultimate music man” who left her amazed with his knowledge of music once she started making documentaries.
Seymour, who helped found the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation and was inducted in 2005.
Born in New York in 1942, Stein worked summers as a teenager at James Brown’s Cincinnati label, King Records, and in his mid-20s co-founded Sire Productions, which soon became Sire Records.
His most famous discovery was in the early 1980s when he heard a demo tape from a then little-known singer, Madonna.
In his 2018 Siren Song memoir, he said of hearing her first attempts through his Sony Walkman and feeling so excited, like he had “penicillin dripped into his heart”: “I liked Madonna’s voice, I liked it the feeling and I liked the name Madonna. I liked everything and played it again.”
Seymour also recounted in the book how he signed Madonna for $15,000 from his hospital bed while awaiting open-heart surgery at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital in 1982.
He said: “She was dressed all in cheap punk clothes, the kind of club kid that would look absurdly out of place in a cardiac ward.
“She wasn’t even interested in hearing me how much I liked her demo. ‘Now what I have to do,’ she said, ‘is sign me a record deal.'”
He added: “I signed them because I believed in Mark Kamins, who I thought was the greatest DJ, and he wanted to be a producer. So I gave him some money to get me an artist and the third or fourth thing he got me was Madonna. “And yes, I was very involved in the beginning. Then I realized, ‘This woman is smarter than all of us. Just stay out of her way.’”
As a teenager, Seymour began working as an assistant to Tommy Noonan, then head of charts at Billboard, where the future music executive attended meetings to decide which new records to review and helped compile the then-launched Hot 100.
He took his first label job in the 1960s, working for Syd Nathan and King Records in Cincinnati before returning to New York for Red Bird Records.
Seymour then co-founded Sire with Richard Gottehrer as an independent record label in 1967, telling Billboard that the first artist he signed was “Steven Tallarico, who later became Steve Tyler of Aerosmith”.
He had a brief marriage to record promoter and real estate executive Linda Adler – who died in 2007 at the age of 62 – with whom he had two children, filmmaker Mandy Stein and Samantha Lee Jacobs, who died of brain cancer in 2013.
In 2012 he was the inaugural recipient of the Billboard Icon Award, and four years later he took home the Richmond Hitmaker Award at the Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony.
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