Managed the Ramones, Talking Heads

Gary Kurfirst, longtime manager of bands including the Ramones, Talking Heads and Jane’s Addiction, died Jan. 13 in the Bahamas. He was 61.

Kurfirst opened the Village Theater in 1967, which was later known as the Fillmore East. In 1968, he created the New York Rock Festival in Flushing Meadows Park, which featured performances by Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Janis Joplin and the Who.

Among the bands he managed in the late 1960s and 1970s were Mountain and Brazilian artist Deodato, and in 1975 he helped Chris Blackwell introduce Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and reggae to America.

Kurfirst then signed influential clients including the Ramones, the Talking Heads, the B52s, Big Audio Dynamite, the Eurythmics and Jane’s Addiction. The artists defined the sound of the 1980s, and hi clients the Talking Heads, the Ramones, Blondie and Mick Jones of the Clash were all named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“He allowed Talking Heads to be Talking Heads while he took the blows that the music business dealt us,” said the band’s Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz. 

Kurfirst was also a producer of music-driven feature films “Stop Making Sense” with the Talking Heads, David Byrne’s “True Stories” and Mary Lambert’s “Siesta.”

 In 1990 Kurfirst joined forces with MCA and launched Radioactive Records, where he helped launch the band Live. He also signed Shirley Manson, who went on to sell more than 10 million albums with her band Garbage.

In 2002 Kurfirst and longtime friend Chris Blackwell launched two new music ventures: a talent management company, Kurfirst-Blackwell Entertainment, and Rx Records. 

 He is survived by his wife, Phyllis, a daughter, a son, his mother and two grandchildren.

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