Jim Burns, Co-Creator of 'MTV Unplugged,' Dies

Jim Burns, who created MTV Unplugged with Robert Small, died on Dec. 26. He was 65.

According to the New York Post, he was crossing the street while walking his dog when a taxi turned left, striking him. He was taken to New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center and spent three days in critical condition but did not survive. The police investigation concluded that Burns was not inside the crosswalk, and the driver, who stayed at the scene, was not charged with a crime. The dog, Jules, survived.

“He was a terrific human being,” Small told the Post. “He could make fun of people without making them feel bad. He just had a knack for making people happy.” He added that Burns often did impressions of the musicians with whom they worked.

“MTV was deeply saddened to learn of Jim Burns’ passing,” MTV tweeted. “As co-creator of the beloved Unplugged franchise, his groundbreaking work continues to resonate with audiences around the world. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones.”

Unplugged debuted in 1989 and ran regularly for the next 10 years, and with decreasing frequency and online as MTV de-emphasized music programming. The intimate, stripped-down setting quickly became a favorite method for artists to promote their newest material. Eric Clapton had the biggest hit of his career when he released an album of his 1992 performance, winning six Grammy Awards. Over the next few years, Rod Stewart, Neil Young, Nirvana, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, Kiss and many others followed suit with their own records.

“It kind of allowed a rebirth of acoustic,” Small said. “Jim thought, ‘How can we create another avenue for artists?’ It allowed for artists to show another side, for instance, a lot of hip-hop artists had the chance to be more lyrical and poetic. It was at a time when songs were becoming big hits because of the music videos. It became going beyond the music videos and back to the music.”

Burns is survived by his sister.

 

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