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Seymour Stein



Seymour Stein (born April 18, 1942) is an American entrepreneur and music executive. He co-founded Sire Records and was Vice President of Warner Bros. Records. With Sire, Stein signed bands that became central to the new wave era of the 1970s and 80s, including Talking Heads, the Ramones, and The Pretenders. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

Music career

Stein was born in Brooklyn, New York. As a high school student, he interned in the summers of 1957 and 1958 at King Records in Cincinnati. He took on a clerk position for Billboard magazine in 1958 and starting in 1961 worked for two years for King Records.

In 1966, Stein and record producer Richard Gottehrer founded Sire Productions, which led to the formation of Sire Records, the label under which he signed pioneer artists such as the Ramones and Talking Heads in 1975, the Pretenders in 1980 and Madonna in 1982. Other acts signed by Sire include The Replacements, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, The Cure, Ice-T, The Undertones and Echo & the Bunnymen. Stein did not fire Depeche Mode despite poor sales of their first three albums in the US; it was their fourth album that brought them American success.

Such was Stein's influence in signing and promoting the new wave genre of music that he is sometimes credited with coming up with the name as an alternative to the term punk, which he found derogative. The term had previously been used to refer to the French New Wave film movement of the 1960s.

Stein was the President of Sire Records and also Vice President of Warner Bros. Records until his announced retirement on July 18, 2018. He had had a marketing and distribution deal from 1976 to 1994 and again from April 2003 until retirement. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 14, 2005, under the lifetime-achievement category. On June 9, 2016, Stein was honored with the Richmond Hitmaker Award at the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Legacy

Stein is the subject of an eponymous song by the Scottish musical group Belle and Sebastian. He was the winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Dance Music Awards in 2010. Ice-T wrote about Stein in his autobiography, stating: "He's cut from that cloth of the old-time music executives like Clive Davis, but he's way more eccentric... Just a little more bizarre, a bit more avant-garde, more of an edgy cat." He wrote that Stein would never edit Ice-T's musical output but would sometimes express concerns (e.g. he was against homophobia in rap).

Personal life

Stein was formerly married to the late music promoter and real estate executive Linda Stein; together, the couple had two daughters before they divorced, on amicable terms, in the late 1970s. Stein has never remarried. He revealed he was gay in 2017. One of his children is filmmaker Mandy Stein. Stein's eldest daughter, Samantha, passed as a result of brain cancer in 2013 at the age of 40. She is survived by her only daughter, Dora, who lives with her father Rodger Wells, who was Samantha's former husband. Stein published his autobiography, Siren Song: My Life in Music, in 2018.