Madonna has paid tribute to Seymour Stein – the legendary music executive responsible for launching her career along with many other influential acts – following the Sire Records co-founder’s death.
Stein passed away at his home in Los Angeles on Sunday (April 2), after a battle with cancer. He was 80 years old. In a lengthy, emotional tribute shared on Instagram, Madonna reflected on how Stein altered the direction of her life by signing her to Sire in 1982.
“Seymour Stein has left us! I need to catch my breath. He was one of the most influential men in my life,” she wrote. “He changed and shaped my world.” Madonna went on to recount the story of how she and Stein met, explaining how, in the early 1980s, DJ Mark Kamins played a demo of her song ‘Everybody’ one night at the now-closed New York nightclub Danceteria.
“The club was packed. An A&R man from Sire records was there – Michael Rosenblatt,” she wrote. “He heard the music and asked me if he could bring me to meet his boss Seymour Stein. I couldn’t get the words ‘Hell Yes’ out of my mouth fast enough!”
At the time, Stein was in hospital for a heart ailment, but that didn’t stop the meeting from taking place. “When I met him he was laying in a hospital bed wearing his boxer shorts and a wife beater! He had a cannula up his nose and a saline drip in his arm,” Madonna recounted.
“He was grinning like the Cheshire Cat. I was carrying my giant boombox ready to play my cassette for him immediately! He smiled and laughed when he saw me and asked me if I was related to the Virgin Mary. I knew we would hit it off. I played him the song a few times. He signed me to his record label that day!! This moment changed the course of my life forever. And was the beginning of my journey as a musical artist.
“Not only did Seymour hear me but he saw me and my potential! For this I will be eternally grateful! I am weeping as I write this down. Words cannot describe how I felt at this moment after years of grinding and being broke and getting every door slammed in my face.
“Anyone who knew Seymour knew about his passion for music and his impeccable taste. He had an ear like no other! He was intense – wickedly funny – a little bit crazy and deeply intuitive. Dearest Seymour you will never be forgotten!! Thank You! Thank you Thank you! Shine on!!!”
Stein co-founded Sire Records in 1966 alongside producer Richard Gottehrer. Starting out by introducing underground British bands to the US market, the label became a force to be reckoned with in the US’ new wave and punk scenes by the mid-1970s. Stein signed the Ramones and Talking Heads to Sire in 1975 and 1976 respectively.
Sire signed a major label distribution deal with Warner Bros. Records in 1977, and was acquired by Warner Bros. the following year. In addition to being president of Sire, Stein went on to become vice president of Warner Bros. Records. He retained both positions until he announced his retirement from the industry in 2018.
Alongside Atlantic Records’ Ahmet Ertegun, Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner and others, Stein was a member of the team that helped establish the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the 1980s. Stein himself was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005 in the lifetime achievement category. In 2016, Stein was honoured with the Richard Hitmaker Award in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.