Seymour Stein, the famous producer who launched the careers of Madonna, Talking Heads and Ramones and promoted the Cure, Depeche Mode and the Smiths to America, has died at the age of 80.

Stein died Sunday morning in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer, a family spokesman confirmed.
As co-founder of Sire Records, Stein has spawned talent from pop to punk to the new wave music scene.

Stein became known as the King of Pop in the 1980s and continued to fly around the world in search of new talent well into his 70s.

Born Seymour Steinbigle in Brooklyn in 1942, Stein entered the music industry at age 13, writing reviews for Billboard magazine. In 1961 he left to work for King Records, home to James Brown and other major R&B and country acts. He then headed to New York to work for Red Bird Records until 1966, when he co-founded Sire Records with producer and songwriter Richard Gottehrer in Manhattan.

Stein scoured New York clubs for talent. Sire was acquired by Warner Bros. in 1978. Over the next two decades, the label signed a diverse list of acts, including the Replacements, Echo & the Bunnymen, Madness, the Undertones, the Smiths, and singer Morrissey, Brian Wilson, kd lang, Seal, Wilco, Ice-T, Lou Reed, Everything But the Girl, My Bloody Valentine and Australian band the Saints.

Stein’s biggest commercial success was Madonna, who signed to Sire after he heard her demo for Everybody while recovering from open-heart surgery, even calling her at her hospital bedside.

“She was all dolled up in cheap punk clothes, the kind of kid you didn’t notice,” Stein wrote in his 2018 memoir Siren Song: My Life in Music. “She didn’t even care to hear me explain how much I liked her demo… it didn’t take long for her to cut the conversation short and go straight to ‘the juice’.” He looked at me and said, “And now, give me the money.” As a rule, I’m always careful with the artists I choose, but Madonna was more of a man than all four men in the room combined. “Look, just tell me what I need to do to get a big record deal in this town!” she said, and I reassured her by saying, “Don’t worry, you’ve got a deal.”