Seymour Stein, the bold, visionary, and wildly successful founder of Sire Records who helped launch the careers of Madonna, Talking Heads, and many others, has died aged 80.
Stein, who helped found the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation and was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in 2005, died of cancer Sunday in Los Angeles, a statement from his family said.
Born in New York in 1942, Stein worked summers as a teenager at King Records, James Brown’s Cincinnati label, and in the mid-20s, founded Sire Productions, which soon became Sire Records.
He was obsessed with the Billboard music charts since childhood and was known for his deep knowledge and appreciation of music. He proved to be an astute judge of talent during the New Wave era of the 1970s, an idea he popularized by signing a signed contract for recordings with Talking. Heads, Ramones, and Pretenders.
Her most profitable discovery came in the early 1980s when she heard demo recordings of little-known singer and dancer from the New York club scene, Madonna.
“I love Madonna’s sound, the feel, and the name, Madonna. ” I love it all and play it again,” he wrote in his memoir, Siren Song, released in 2018, the same year he retired.
Stein was hospitalized with a heart infection when he first learned about Madonna but wanted so badly to see her that he took her to his bedroom.
“He was wearing a cheesy punk club boy style outfit that looked so out of place on the cardiology ward,” she wrote.
Sire’s artists included Ice T, the Smiths, Depeche Mode, the Replacements, and Echo and the Bunnymen, along with the more established Lou Reed and Brian Wilson, who would later in their career record with Sire.
Stein was briefly married to real estate developer and CEO Linda Adler, with whom he had two children: filmmaker Mandy Stein and Samantha Lee Jacobs, who died of brain cancer in 2013.
Stein and his wife divorced in the 1970s and came out as gay years later.
“I am so grateful for every minute our family spent with him and that the music he brought to the world positively impacted the lives of so many people,” Mandy Stein said.