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Seymour Stein, Sire Records Co-Founder Who Signed Madonna and Talking Heads, Dies at 80

Record executive signed Madonna, Ramones, and Depeche Mode during his storied career
Seymour Stein
(Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Seymour Stein, the legendary music executive who co-founded Sire Records, has died at the age of 80. Stein’s daughter, Mandy, confirmed that he passed away at his home in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer.

Born on April 18, 1942 as Seymour Steinbigle in Brooklyn, Stein was one of the most influential executives in modern music history. After a stint working at Billboard as a teenager and Cincinnati-based soul label King Records, Stein co-founded Sire Records in 1966 with Richard Gottehrer.

Stein’s taste was consistently forward-thinking and ahead of most trends — in the 1970s, he signed the Ramones, Talking Heads, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, and the Dead Boys as punk was starting to emerge as a cultural force in downtown New York and the U.K.

He famously signed Madonna in the early 1980s when she was on the cusp of stardom and performing at dance clubs in Manhattan. As college and alternative rock started to emerge from the underground, Stein would bring artists like the Replacements, the Cure, the Pretenders, the Smiths, Echo & the Bunnymen, Ministry, and Depeche Mode to Sire. Other artists signed under Stein’s watch include Ice-T, Lou Reed, Seal, K.D. Lang, and Brian Wilson.

Stein was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

“I grew up surrounded by music. I didn’t have the most conventional upbringing, but I wouldn’t change my life and my relationship with my dad for anything, and he was a loving and caring grandfather who took pleasure in every moment with his three granddaughters,” Mandy Stein said in a statement. “He gave me the ultimate soundtrack, as well as his wicked sense of humor. 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.”