Madonna is in grief. After the passing of Seymour Stein, the record label executive who discovered and signed her in 1982, the pop icon paid an emotional Instagram homage to him over the weekend.
“Seymour Stein Has Passed Away!” “I need to catch my breath,” the 64-year-old singer said besides a carousel of vibrant vintage images of herself with Seymour. “He was among the most impactful men I’ve ever known!!” He influenced and shaped my life.” The “Like a Virgin” singer then gave her interpretation of a pop music legend’s life.
Madonna was a formidable, tenacious young singer from Michigan making inroads in downtown Manhattan clubs like Danceteria in the early 1980s. After convincing a DJ to demo her song “Everyone” at the venue on Saturday night in 1982, it piqued the interest of a SIRE records A&R rep, who approached her about meeting with his boss, Seymour, to discuss her music.
“I couldn’t get ‘Hell Yes!’ out of my mouth quickly enough!” Madonna remembers.
The future Grammy winner arrived at his hospital bed with a boombox and a cassette with her songs in the most Madonna of Madonna moments. “When I met him, he wore boxer shorts in a hospital bed! He had a nasal cannula and a saline drip in his arm! He had a Cheshire Cat grin on his face.”
“When he spotted me, he grinned, chuckled, and asked if I was related to the Virgin Mary!! Hahahhahahaa. I knew we’d get along. I played the song for him a couple of times.” Seymour immediately signed her to a $45,000 music contract with SIRE Records for three singles and an album option.
“I enjoyed Madonna’s voice, the atmosphere, and the name Madonna. I enjoyed it all and played it again,” Seymour wrote in his biography Siren Song, published in 2018.
He described her as “all dolled up in cheap punky clothing, the kind of club girl who looked comically out of place on a cardiac unit. She wasn’t even interested in hearing how much I enjoyed her demo.”
‘The thing to do now signs me to a record deal,’ she remarked. “This moment forever changed the trajectory of my life. That was the start of my career as a musician. Seymour not only heard me, but he saw me and my potential! I will be eternally grateful for this!”
“I’m crying as I write this,” she says. “Words cannot express how I felt at this moment, after years of grinding, being broke, and having every door slammed in my face.” Of course, Madonna went on to sell hundreds of millions of records, fill stadiums, and establish herself as a once-in-a-generation artist who is still recording and performing four decades later.
While Madonna was Seymour’s most notable discovery, he also championed the Ramones, Talking Heads, and the Pretenders. He was also a co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and its yearly ceremony. He leaves behind a sister and three grandchildren.