A music producer, Kirshner, lauded by Time magazine as “The Man With the Golden Ear”, helped launch and/or nurture the careers of songwriters who would go on to become household names: Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Bobby Darin, Neil Diamond, and more. “He had a great sense of commerciality and song,” said music producer Charles Koppelman — “the ability to hear a song and know it’s a hit.”
In the 1960s, Kirshner was hired to help produce songs for a band that was created especially for TV: The Monkees. He hired songwriters (such as Diamond) to create and record songs fast enough that a new one could be introduced on each the Monkees’ weekly TV shows, but the band — who were all actual musicians — demanded more input into “their” music. The “Prefab Four” confronted Kirshner in his office, which culminated with guitarist Michael Nesmith slamming his fist through Kirshner’s wall. Kirshner was fired, but went on to create a new TV band with less-troublesome characters (cartoons): The Archies. “I want a band that won’t talk back,” he said later. As the host of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, a syndicated TV show that ran from 1973 to 1981, Kirshner demanded bands performed live, rather than lip-synch to recordings, and he introduced bands with a flat monotone (and a Bronx accent). Kirshner died January 17 from heart failure at his home in Florida. He was 76.