Arthur Shimkin

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Arthur Shimkin was the premier children's music producer of the baby-boomer era. The longtime head of the Little Golden Records label, he earned a Grammy for his work on Leonard Bernstein's famed recording…
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Arthur Shimkin was the premier children's music producer of the baby-boomer era. The longtime head of the Little Golden Records label, he earned a Grammy for his work on Leonard Bernstein's famed recording of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. Born October 8, 1922, in Brooklyn, Shimkin studied economics at Columbia University, and upon graduating in 1943 he served in the Army Air Corps. Upon returning from World War II, he worked as a freelance writer, and in 1948 joined publishing firm Simon & Schuster. Assigned to develop new marketing concepts, Shimkin poured over comment cards mailed to Simon & Schuster by parents exhausted by reading the same stories to their children time and again. In response he pitched founder Max Shuster the concept of Little Golden Records, the first U.S. label exclusively devoted to children's music. At first producing colorful plastic discs tailored specifically for children's record players, by the early '50s Little Golden moved into traditional vinyl releases as well, attracting A-list talent including Bing Crosby, Cab Calloway, and Danny Kaye in addition to employing many of the top session players in the business; perhaps most notably, singer/comedian Jimmy Durante -- the "Schnozzola" himself -- recorded a smash rendition of Johnny Marks' holiday perennial "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Little Golden's subjects ranged from fairy tales to ghost stories to lullabies, and Shimkin served as executive producer of more than 3,000 records in all, selling in excess of five million copies. Nominated for 13 Grammys, he won in 1961 for Peter and the Wolf, recorded by Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. That same year he produced Young Abe Lincoln, the first Broadway musical written for children; although it closed after just 22 performances, it later enjoyed new life off-Broadway and on the national theater circuit. Shimkin eventually expanded into mainstream pop, operating the Bell label before founding Sesame Street Records in conjunction with the Children's Television Workshop. Sesame Street Fever, a beloved parody of the Bee Gees' landmark Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, went on to sell more than 500,000 copies, a remarkable number for such a niche release. After retiring, Shimkin battled cancer of the larynx, and later mentored other laryngectomy patients. He died December 4, 2006, at the age of 84.