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OBITUARY: Simon Waronker.

THE pantheon of popular music offers eternity to countless heroes and heroines, as well as the broken, the sorrowful and the crazy in its many halls and studios, and in one distant corner can be heard the highpitched chirruping of The Chipmunks - a sound which prompted otherwise sane people to bury their transistor radios.

Simon Waronker, the businessman who had early ambitions to be a violin virtuoso but founded the legendary Liberty record label instead, was a Chipmunk, though he never sang on their numerous hits.

In 1958, David Seville (real name Ross Bagdassarian) scored a US number one with Witch Doctor - a passage of which had the vocals speeded up to achieve a higher pitch.

Its success persuaded him to develop the idea with a tweety-pie group (actually just him) called The Chipmunks. It was decided the adorable creatures should have names. Enter Alvin, Simon and Theodore - the forenames of three Liberty executives.

Waronker was, of course, the Simon. The Chipmunks were a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic, topping the US chart with the Chipmunk Song. Fourteen more hits and a TV cartoon series followed. Included in sales which exceeded 30m was an album of Beatles' songs This was commercially pleasing for the poor boy from Los Angeles, but Waronker's label was also a serious player in the development of rock and roll and blues music with Eddie Cochran, Julie (Cry Me A River) London and Bobby Vee being among its artists. Cochran's death in 1960 was obviously a huge blow as Summertime Blues and C'mon Everybody had added rock credentials to a market which was sinking into popsy syrup. But Vee had a string of hits in an imitation of Buddy Holly's style, keeping the tills rolling. Johnny Burnette had massive success with Your Sixteen and Dreamin'. His picture was clasped in many teenage lockets.

Although he sold the label in 1963, Waronker maintained his interest in music through his son, Lenny, who became a record producer and executive, working with Ry Cooder, Randy Newman and James Taylor

Simon Waronker, record company executive ; born 1915, died June 7, 2005
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 20, 2005
Words:353
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