Seymour Stein, Record Executive Who Signed Madonna and Talking Heads, Dead at 80

The Sire Records co-founder also released music by Ramones, The Pretenders, and Depeche Mode

Seymour Stein with David Byrne and Madonna
Seymour Stein with David Byrne and Madonna, photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage

    Seymour Stein, the esteemed music executive who co-founded Sire Records and played a pivotal role in signing legendary artists including Madonna and Talking Heads, as well as many others, has died at the age of 80.

    According to Variety, Stein passed away on Sunday, April 2nd, following a long battle with cancer.

    Stein grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and during his teenage years, he got his start in the music industry working for King Records and Billboard magazine.

    In 1966, at the age of 24, Stein co-founded Sire Records with Richard Gottehrer. Initially, the label focused on signing and promoting British acts, such as Climax Blues Band, Renaissance, and Fleetwood Mac’s early blues rock lineup, but it would soon expand its horizons to include artists from various genres.


    In the mid-1970s, Stein took notice of the emerging punk rock scene in New York City. At the forefront of this movement were bands like The Ramones, The Talking Heads, and The Dead Boys, all of whom were signed to Sire Records.

    In the 1980s, Sire championed new wave and alternative rock acts including The Pretenders, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, The Cure, and The Replacements.

    His signature achievement, however, came in 1983 when he signed Madonna after hearing a demo of “Everybody.” Sire released Madonna’s first six albums, including her 1983 self-titled debut, 1984’s Like a Virgin, 1986’s True Blue, and 1989’s Like a Prayer.


    Sire served as president of Sire Records and vice president of Warner Bros. Records until his retirement in 2018. For his efforts, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.