This will only mean something to you if you were listening to pop-rock music in the 1960s and ’70s, or watched TV programs of similar vintage revolving around said music.
Don Kirshner is gone.
Kirshner — or Donnie the K, as I like to call him — started out as a Tin Pan Alley music publisher, whose stable included numerous legendary songwriting duos, from Goffin and King to Sedaka and Greenfield. But he became a household name in the ’60s as the impresario behind prefabricated-for-television pop groups such as The Monkees and The Archies.
In the ’70s, Kirshner’s eponymous record label signed the progressive-rock band Kansas, unleashing a string of hits including “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind.”
That same decade, Kirshner began producing and hosting the late-night TV music series, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. Donnie the K’s eerily awkward on-camera presence made him the butt of numerous jokes — including an infamous Saturday Night Live sketch starring Paul Shaffer, who later starred in a sitcom produced by Kirshner called A Year at the Top — and proved the venerable maxim that record producers should be neither seen nor heard. Still, the show ran for a decade, and featured pretty much every big-name act in pop music at one time or another.
As a kid who loved the songs of The Monkees and The Archies (“Sugar Sugar” was one of the first mainstream pop records I ever owned), and later as a teenager who was a major-league Kansas fanatic (I celebrated my 19th birthday at a Kansas concert at San Francisco’s Cow Palace), Don Kirshner contributed mightily to the soundtrack of my youth — even though he never sang or played a note. (For which, if his musical talents matched his abilities as a master of ceremonies, the universe should be eternally grateful.)
They also entertain who only sit and write checks.