Seymour Stein – the music executive who helped launched the careers of Madonna, Talking Heads, the Pretenders, the Ramones, and more – has died at the age of 80. Stein’s daughter Mandy told the New York Times that he died Sunday morning in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer.
Born in New York City on April 18, 1942, Stein got his start in the music business at the age of 13, working for Billboard magazine. After interning for two summers with King Records, the Cincinnati soul label that was home to James Brown, he took a permanent role at the company in 1961. In 1966, Stein co-founded Sire Productions alongside Richard Gottehrer. After releasing early work by Fleetwood Mac and Focus, the label became a key force in the new wave and punk movements, signing both the Ramones and Talking Heads in 1975.
Stein signed Madonna in 1983 after hearing her demo for ‘Everybody’ from his hospital bed while recovering from open-heart surgery. Sire was acquired by Warner Bros. in 1978. Some of its latter-day acts include Regina Spektor and Tegan & Sara. In 1998, Belle and Sebastian released a song called ‘Seymour Stein’ on their album The Boy With the Arab Strap. In 2005, Stein was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which he helped form in 1983. He retired from the music industry in 2018, the same year he published his memoir Siren Song: My Life in Music.
In her statement, Mandy Stein said: “I grew up surrounded by music. I didn’t have the most conventional upbringing, but I wouldn’t change my life and my relationship with my dad for anything, and he was a loving and caring grandfather who took pleasure in every moment with his three granddaughters. He gave me the ultimate soundtrack, as well as his wicked sense of humor. I am beyond grateful for every minute our family spent with him, and that the music he brought to the world impacted so many people’s lives in a positive way.”