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Legendary Manager Gary Kurfirst Dies

LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Gary Kurfirst, the legendary manager who helped to shape the careers of numerous influential artists such as The Ramones, The Talking Heads, has died.

Over the course of four decades, Gary Kurfirst, known to insiders for his discerning taste, had been involved in record sales in excess of 100 million units worldwide. He was pivotal in the careers and successes of major of recording artists, producers, film and video directors, agents, and major recording labels.

Gary Kurfirst was responsible for bringing the sixties music revolution to New York. In 1967 he opened the doors to the infamous Village Theater later known as the Fillmore East, where he promoted the East Coast debuts of more than twenty icons including, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, the Who, Janis Joplin, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page's Yardbirds.

In 1968, at twenty years old and one year before Woodstock, he created the model for the contemporary music festival by producing and promoting the legendary New York Rock Festival at the Singer Bowl in Flushing Meadow Park where Hendrix, the Doors, Joplin, and the Who appeared together, among others. He was also at the forefront of bringing acid-rock guitar bands to the music community with the band Mountain, which he managed from 1967 to 1975.

In 1971 Kurfirst signed the Brazilian artist Deodato and helped guide his album to gold status and achieve a number-one single. In 1975 he helped Chris Blackwell introduce Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and reggae to America, delivering a new consciousness and sound to mass audiences. For the rest of the seventies and through the eighties Kurfirst rode a new wave of culture in an expanding musical landscape and signed the now-immortalized punk icons the Ramones, art-rockers Talking Heads, B52s, Annie Lennox's Eurythmics, and also Jane's Addiction who inspired the grunge music movement of the early nineties. His defense of creative expression earned both the Talking Heads and the Ramones induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. He holds the exclusive honor of having two management clients inducted in the same year.

In 1984, 1986, and 1987 Kurfirst produced three feature-length films while simultaneously managing his impressive stable of platinum-selling recording artists. Respectively, they were the Talking Heads' critically acclaimed and award-winning concert film Stop Making Sense, directed by Jonathan Demme; the quirky satire of American life, True Stories, directed by David Byrne; and Siesta, directed by Mary Lambert and featuring an all-star cast including Jodi Foster, Ellen Barkin, Isabella Rossellini, and Martin Sheen, as well as a Miles Davis soundtrack.

In 1990 Kurfirst joined forces with MCA and launched Radioactive Records. His marketing strategies brought MCA rock credibility and their first modern music success of the era with Radioactive's band Live. The band has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide, which include two number-one Billboard albums and dozens of number-one albums in international territories. Kurfirst also signed Shirley Manson in 1991 and then brokered her deal with Almo as the lead singer of Garbage who went on to sell more than 10 million albums.

In 2002 Kurfirst and longtime friend Chris Blackwell launched two new music ventures: a talent management company, Kurfirst-Blackwell Entertainment, and Rx Records, a uniquely structured imprint offering its artists more contractual flexibility and creative latitude than the majors. Entering the new millennium and drawing on his vast experience, resources, and network, Gary Kurfirst continued to develop careers and influence the expanding global market, pioneering new business models and creative marketing strategies.

After his passing, a number of his clients and colleagues offered some thoughts and reflections on Gary:

Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth "Gary Kurfirst has been our manager since 1977. He never failed to take care of business for us. He protected us. He allowed Talking Heads to be Talking Heads while he took the blows that the music business dealt us. Together we suffered heartbreaks and celebrated great triumphs. Gary truly was the fifth Talking Head. We were very close friends and we will miss him terribly."

Seymour Stein, Sire Records: "Gary was brilliant in his ability to spot changes in music ahead of most people and had the courage to act on his instincts. Gary was tough, but not cut-throat in business. He could fight hard, but fair and never held grudges. Gary had great style.

Certainly one of the best and most successful relationships I ever enjoyed with a manager, working together on Talking Heads, The Ramones or Deborah Harry. Can honestly say he will be surely missed."

Jerry Harrison, The Talking Heads: "My biggest remembrance of Gary is how much fun we had. How we used to get up early and fly through El Paso so the two of us could shop for cowboy boots at the factory stores located there. About the time he drove us up to northern Arizona to see the Red Rocks and how we drove through someone's back yard in order to get a better view of the sunset and how I drank twice as much tequila as we passed a bottle back and forth because I was in the middle.

Our friendship really blossomed from a train ride in France. It was the first tour that Gary had come on. We had had a very late night at La Coupole and rushed to Charles DeGaule to catch the flight to London. The flight was cancelled because of snow and we were crowded on a bus to return to the train to the ferry to the train to London. As everyone dozed off on the train I realized that I had left my passport at the hotel in Paris, Gary and I began to plot what we would say when we would be questioned by customs and the conversation roamed all through our mutual histories and the hopes that we had for the Talking Heads. I delighted in telling him how I had bribed the doorman at the East Village Theatre to get into 'The Who' concert he had promoted and he regaled me with stories from the days of 'Mountain' and growing up in Forest Hills. I had been a stickler about paragraphs in our management contract which he had found to be insulting, but at the end of the conversation we had grown to have mutual respect for each other's judgment and he knew that I knew enough about 'the business' to understand the value of his counsel.

Though we saw each other infrequently since I moved to San Francisco, there was always a recognition of the bond between us when ever we spoke; I shall miss him greatly and my heart goes out to Phyllis, Lindsay, and Josh and everyone else who was close to this extraordinary man." – CelebrityAccess Staff Writers