'MTV Unplugged' Co-Creator Jim Burns Dies

MTV Unplugged
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Nirvana during the taping of MTV Unplugged at Sony Studios in New York City on Nov. 18, 1993. 11/18/93. 

Jim Burns, who co-created the long-running acoustic performance series MTV Unplugged alongside Robert Small in 1989, has died, a person close to his family confirmed to Billboard. He was 65.

Burns had been in the hospital since Saturday (Dec. 23). That morning, while walking his dog on Fifth Avenue on Manhattan's Upper East Side, he was hit by a yellow taxi cab, according to the New York Post, and taken to New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center in critical condition. This afternoon, the person confirmed that Burns had passed.

In Unplugged, Burns and Small created one of the enduring and iconic legacy series in MTV's history, with a first season that featured the likes of Aerosmith, Elton John and Stevie Ray Vaughan putting aside their electric instruments for stripped-down, intimate sets of some of their biggest hits in settings that fans would rarely see them perform in again. But it was in the early-to-mid 1990s that the show truly hit its stride, through legendary performances by the likes of Eric Clapton, Mariah Carey, Nirvana, Rod Stewart and Alice In Chains, among others, with Clapton's Unplugged album winning six Grammy Awards, including album, record and song of the year (the latter two for "Tears In Heaven") and Nirvana winning one for best alternative music performance.

Later, the series was revived in different incarnations, most notably with performances by Jay-Z and the Roots (2001), Lauryn Hill (2002) and Alicia Keys (2005). This September, the series was brought back once again, with Shawn Mendes serving as its first artist.

Burns also served as a writer and executive producer throughout his long career.

Additional reporting by Thom Duffy.


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