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Lighters Held High: Music Biz Legend Don Kirshner Dies

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Don Kirshner, a commanding musical authority, groundbreaking rock n' roll publisher and visionary television producer died yesterday of heart failure in Boca Raton, Florida. He was 76 years old. The multi-industry mogul launched songwriting talent in the 1960s, made the Monkees the Monkees, and gave a non lip-synced, live-music stage to many pre-legends of the 1970s on his late-night TV series "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert."

Bronx-born Kirshner reportedly "met Robert Cassotto at a candy shop in Washington Heights and the two wrote songs together, including Cassotto's first single, My First Love, which he recorded under the name Bobby Darin, reports NPR.

With publisher Al Nevins, Kirshner co-founded Aldon Music in 1958. Darin's "Splish Splash" went Top 10 that year and Aldon scored top songwriting teams Carole King/Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil, and Neil Sedaka/Howard Greenfield, notes NPR. Kirshner launched Dimension Records, sold Aldon to Screen Gems/Columbia and then became president in 1964. There, Kirshner began conceiving of a musical television hybrid. Enter: the Monkees and The Archies.

Kirshner later became the executive producer for ABC-TV's "In Concert" series in the early 1970s -- featuring The Allman Brothers Band, Alice Cooper, Curtis Mayfield and similar caliber performers -- before launching his own syndicated concert show in 1973 bringing in the likes of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Ramones, Sly & the Family Stone, Black Sabbath, ABBA, Sparks, Devo, Kansas, Lynyrd Skynyrd and, "countless others over its nine-year run," notes the L.A. Times.

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Kirshner remained active in the music industry until the end of this life through music publishing and with a company called Rockrena but expressed disappointment that he was not inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of its many nonperformer honorees. "I don't want to sound like sour grapes," he said in 2004, notes the L.A. Times, "but I believe I should have been one of the first three or first five inducted. Seriously. I mean, they've got people in there that I trained, and I'm not in? It bothers me, on principle."