Sire Records co-founder Seymour Stein died on Sunday at the age of 80 in Los Angeles after a battle with cancer, according to a statement from his family.
Stein helped the careers of singer Madonna, the rock band Talking Heads and many others during his career as a record executive. He founded the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
The New York City native worked summers as a teenager at Cincinnati-based King Records, which helped launch the career of singer James Brown. Stein also co-founded Sire Productions, which later became Sire Records, by his mid-20s.
He had been obsessed with the Billboard music charts since he was a child and developed a deep knowledge and appreciation of music. He signed record deals with the Talking Heads, the Ramones and the Pretenders during the New Wave era in the 1970s and 1980s.
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“Seymour’s taste in music is always a couple of years ahead of everyone else’s,” Talking Heads manager Gary Kurfirst told the Rock Hall around the time of Stein’s induction.
Stein was also known for his discovery of Madonna in the early 1980s when he heard her demo tape.
“I liked Madonna’s voice, I liked the feel, and I liked the name Madonna. I liked it all and played it again,” he wrote in his memoir “Siren Song.”
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Stein was hospitalized with a heart infection when he first heard about Madonna, but he was so excited to meet her that he had her come to his room.
“She was all dolled up in cheap punky gear, the kind of club kid who looked absurdly out of place in a cardiac ward,” he wrote. “She wasn’t even interested in hearing me explain how much I liked her demo. ‘The thing to do now,’ she said, ‘is sign me to a record deal.'”
Other names Sire had signed include Ice T, the Smiths, Depeche Mode, the Replacements, Echo and the Bunnymen, Lou Reed and Brian Wilson.
Stein was briefly married to record promoter and real estate executive Linda Adler before divorcing in the 1970s. He and Adler had two children, filmmaker Mandy Stein and Samantha Lee Jacobs, who died of brain cancer in 2013. Stein came out as gay after his divorce and never remarried.
“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,” Mandy Stein said in a statement Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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