"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 cutthroat in business."


Longtime Manager for Talking Heads, Blondie, Ramones, B52s, Eurythmics and Chris Blackwell Partner Dies While in Nassau, Bahamas
Longtime manager and label executive Gary Kurfirst passed away while on vacation in Nassau, Bahamas yesterday (1/13). He was 61 years old.

Over the course of four decades, Kurfirst has been involved with groups generating record sales in excess of 100 million units worldwide. He first opened the doors to the infamous Village Theater, later known as the Fillmore East, in 1967, where he promoted the East Coast debuts of Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, the Who, Janis Joplin, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page’s Yardbirds.

In 1968, at 20 and a 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, featuring shows by Hendrix, the Doors, Joplin and the Who, among others. He also managed Mountain from 1967-’75, a distinction he shared with the recently departed Bud Prager.

In 1971, Kurfirst signed the Brazilian artist Deodato and helped guide his album to gold status with a #1 single. In 1975, he helped Chris Blackwell introduce reggae to America with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s, Kurfirst helped usher in the punk and new wave era in music by managing punk icons the Ramones, art-rockers Talking Heads, the B52s, Blondie, Deborah Harry, Annie Lennox’s Eurythmics and Jane’s Addiction. He had two of his clients, the Heads and Ramones, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, the only manager to achieve the feat of having both honored in a single year.

Kurfirst also produced three feature-length films in the Heads’ critically acclaimed and award-winning concert film Stop Making Sense, directed by Jonathan Demme; the quirky satire True Stories, directed by David Byrne; and Siesta, directed by Mary Lambert and featuring an all-star cast including Jody Foster, Ellen Barkin, Isabella Rossellini and Martin Sheen, with a soundtrack by Miles Davis.

In 1990, Kurfirst joined forces with MCA and launched Radioactive Records, with the band Live. The band has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide, which include two chart-topping albums. 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.

Said 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 cutthroat 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. 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.”

For an overview on Kurfirst's career, go to www.garykurfirst.com.