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Madonna breaks silence to mourn "one of the most influential men in my life"

: "I am weeping as I write this," the pop icon writes in an emotional, nostalgic tribute

Madonna, clad in a purple suit, during a 2016 performance© JB Lacroix
Justin Ravitz
Justin Ravitz - New York
Editorial Director, U.S.New York
April 3, 2023
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Madonna is in mourning. The pop icon posted an emotional Instagram tribute to Seymour Stein, the record label executive who discovered and signed her in 1982, following his death over the weekend at age 80.

"Seymour Stein Has Left Us! I need to catch my breath," the superstar, 64, wrote below a carousel of touching vintage photos of her with Seymour. "He Was one of the most influential Men in my Life!! He changed and Shaped my world." The "Like a Virgin" singer then told her version of a story that's already pop music legend. Back in the early 1980s, Madonna was a scrappy, dogged young singer from Michigan making waves via performances in downtown Manhattan clubs, including Danceteria. One Saturday night in 1982, after convincing a DJ to play a demo of her song "Everybody" at the venue, it caught the attention of a SIRE records A&R rep in attendance, who approached her about meeting with his boss, Seymour, to discuss her music.

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"I Couldn’t get the words 'Hell Yes!' out of my mouth fast enough!" Madonna recalls. The hitch? "Seymour was in the hospital for a Heart Ailment! I didn’t care. Lets Goooooo!"

In the most Madonna of Madonna moments, the future Grammy winner arrived at his hospital bed with a boombox and a cassette with her songs. "When I met him he was laying in a hospital bed wearing his boxer shorts and a wife beater! He had a cannula up his nose and a saline Drip in his arm! He was grinning like the Cheshire Cat."

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"He smiled and laughed when he saw me and asked me if I was related to the Virgin Mary!! Hahahhahahaa. I knew we would hit it off. I played him the song a few times." Seymour signed her on the spot to a $45,000 music contract for three singles, with an option for an album, with SIRE records. 

Madonna performs in a 1985 concert.© mark downey
Three years after Seymour Stein signed her to Sire Records, Madonna, already a global superstar, performs at a 1985 concert.

"I liked Madonna's voice, I liked the feel, and I liked the name Madonna. I liked it all and played it again," Seymour wrote in his 2018 memoir Siren Song . "She was all dolled up in cheap punky gear, the kind of club kid who looked absurdly out of place in a cardiac ward," he wrote. "She wasn't even interested in hearing me explain how much I liked her demo. 'The thing to do now,' she said, 'is sign me to a record deal.'"This moment changed the course of my Life Forever. And was the beginning of my journey as a Musical Artist. Not only did Seymour hear me but he Saw me and my Potential! For this I will be eternally grateful!

I am weeping as I write this down," she writes. "Words cannot describe how I felt at this moment after years of grinding and being broke and getting every door slammed in my face." After that signing, of course, Madonna went on to sell hundreds of millions of records, sell out stadiums, and become a once-in-a-generation artist who's still recording and touring four decades later.

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While Madonna was Seymour's most famous discovery, he also championed many more, including the Ramones, Talking Heads, and the Pretenders. He was also one of the founders of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and accompanying annual ceremony. He is survived by a sister and three grandchildren.

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