Pioneering DJ and producer Mark Kamins, who was instrumental in facilitating the signing of Madonna to Sire Records in 1982, died in Mexico on Thursday.
According to BlackBook, on Feb. 14, he suffered “a massive coronary” in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he had been teaching; that report was confirmed to Billboard.biz by a family source. Word spread on social media, where many friends of the Downtown New York City scene veteran -- ranging from Glassnote founder Daniel Glass to longtime DJ/producer Francois Kervorkian to original Rolling Stones manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham -- posted remembrances.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Madonna wote: "I'm very sorry to hear about Mark's death. I haven't seen him for years but if it weren't for him, I might not have had a singing career. He was the first DJ to play my demos before I had a record deal. He believed in me before anyone else did. I owe him a lot. May he Rest in Peace."
Kamins, noted for always living his life in the grandest of fashions, had apparently been struggling with heart problems for some months previous.
Legend has it that he took the budding superstar and clubland habitué Madonna Ciccone under his wing, passing her demo on to Sire Records honcho Seymour Stein, who quickly signed her -- the rest, of course, is pop history. Kamins, who also produced her nascent single “Everybody”, would be the first in a line of high-profile Madonna beaus, to be eventually usurped by the likes of Jellybean Benitez and, of course, many others. A significant talent in his own right, he went on to work with radical performance artist Karen Finley, as well as 80’s musical giants such as David Byrne, the Beastie Boys and Sinead O’Connor.
Benitez wrote on Facebook: "So sad to learn of the passing of Mark Kamins ... I will never forget the first time we met and how much we laughed.... I also loved watching and listening to you DJ at Danceteria ... I never knew what you would play next ... U are and will always be an inspiration to many ... I will miss u ... Rest in Peace my friend."
Downtown documentarian Steve Lewis writes on BlackBookMag.com that Kamins, “Was brilliant yet lost, a good friend but often very much a loner. I DJ'd with him at subMercer a couple years back and it was just about the most fun I've had at that game.”
Kamins perhaps distinctly represented a lost New York club scene of debauchery and illicit behaviors, replaced now by bottle service, bankers and strict adherence to officialdom-imposed standards. A fixture at the legendarily uninhibited Danceteria, where he mingled with not only the soon-to-be Material Girl, but also Downtown icons Keith Haring, LL Cool J, and the Beastie Boys, his remixes included superstars of the time like Kajagoogoo and Ofra Haza.
Seemingly universally loved for his benevolence, a posting by friend Marci Weber on Facebook recalls that, “Mark was a friend to so many people and always had a good story. He was a kind hearted generous man and always had time for his friends. He lived life to (sic) it's fullest and perhaps that is why he left us so soon.”
His legacy is secure as a central figure of one of New York City’s most fertile and experimental periods in terms of music, clubbing and lifestyle iconoclasm.
Exact details of Kamin's passing were not known by press time. He is survived by a son.