Tuesday, January 18, 2011

RIP Don Kirshner

Don Kirshner was a song publisher and rock producer who is best known for managing songwriting talent as well as successful pop groups, such as The Monkees and The Archies. He died of heart failure on January 17, 2011, at age 76 in Boca Raton, Florida.

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.

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. I remember Kirshner's wooden presentation style when it was lampooned on Saturday Night Live by Paul Shaffer. It was quite hilarious.

Below is a video from SNL with Paul Shaffer as Don Kirshner. It also features Gilda Radner as Candy Slice...classic SNL!

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