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Rock producer Don Kirshner dead at 76

By the CNN Wire Staff
Music producer and promoter Don Kirshner helped make The Monkees a sensation in the late '60s.
Music producer and promoter Don Kirshner helped make The Monkees a sensation in the late '60s.
  • "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert" set the standard for live TV performances
  • Kirshner corralled the songwriting talent for the hit '60s TV show "The Monkees"
  • He was influential in making stars of Bobby Darin, Neil Diamond and Tony Orlando

(CNN) -- Music producer and promoter Don Kirshner, who found songs for The Monkees to sing and whose live TV rock show helped wean 1970s audiences off lip-synched programming, died Monday in Boca Raton, Florida, his publicist confirmed Tuesday.

Kirshner, 76, died of heart failure, according to Sharon Ellman of the public relations firm Dash Media.

A renowned song publisher and rock producer, Kirshner is best known for managing the songwriting talent behind the successful pop music television series "The Monkees," and for his signature TV program, "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert."

He achieved his first major success in the late 1950s and early 1960s as co-owner with Al Nevin of the influential New York-based publishing company Aldon Music. The firm had under contract several of the most important songwriters of the so-called Brill Building, including Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Howard Greenfield, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.

As a producer-promoter, Kirshner was influential in igniting the careers of artists such as Bobby Darin, Neil Diamond and Tony Orlando, as well as discovering rock acts such as Kansas.

As a publisher, Kirshner was behind hits such as "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" and "Where The Boys Are."

Barbra Streisand, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra were among the many performers who recorded Kirshner-produced songs.

In 1966, Kirshner, who had supervised the music for the sitcoms "I Dream of Jeannie" and "Bewitched," was hired by the producers of "The Monkees" to provide hit-worthy songs to accompany the TV program. Within a demanding time frame, he quickly corralled songwriting talent to craft catchy tunes for the show, which became a smash hit among teen audiences.

In September 1973, Kirshner created, produced, and eventually hosted his own syndicated, weekly rock-concert program, "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert." The show's long-form, live performances distinguished it from the often lip-synched fare typical among TV music performances up to that time.

The show aired until 1981 and featured performances from many of the big-name acts of that era, including The Rolling Stones, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Fleetwood Mac, the Bee Gees, the Police, Stevie Wonder and David Bowie.

Kirshner was inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame in 2007.

He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Sheila, two children and five grandchildren.