Don Kirshner passed away yesterday at the age of 76. The 1970s needed an Ed Sullivan, too, and he was it. Here's a Don Kirshner's Rock Concert show I remember from 1973, with Sly Stone doing Thank You Fahlettinme Be Mice Elf Again (I hope I misspelled that properly)
Let's not beat around the bush. Don was a hardnosed guy. People like to pretend that the music business is all unicorn farts and rose petals, with a few Machiavellis thrown in to supply the cocaine and enforce the contracts; but truth be told, with the exception of a few blithe spirits like the obviously Stoned Sly right here, the music business is Kirshners all the way down.I'm sure every person composing music in the Brill building resented the fact that they did all the work and Kirshner got all the money. I bet every one of them would call Kirshner if the toilet outside their office didn't flush. Someone's got to figure out how to pay the rent -- first, last, and always.
That's why Kirshners are around. People would never pay money to see or hear anything that came out of Kirshner's mouth, but without guys like him, guys like Sly Stone would never show up. He figured out what melange of money and drugs and threats and more money would work to make even the most reliably unreliable people in the world appear and -- get this -- perform live with no lip-synching and precious little audio spackle to paper over the cracks. There is an edge to live performances that is more or less lost to popular music today. This is the ragged edge in all its glory.
Don Kirshner was a wooden emcee with a stone heart. Thank god for it.