catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Ahmet Ertegun RIP

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Via Steve Sailer who calls him ‘the greatest Muslim-American ever’ – Ahmet Ertegun has passed away at the age of 83 after falling backstage at a Rolling Stones concert.

Who is Ahmet Ertegun? Well, frankly I wouldn’t have heard of him myself even though I’ve long enjoyed some of the fruits of his efforts in my CD collection if I hadn’t seen the Ray Charles movie. He was the founder, along with Herb Abramson, of Atlantic Records which, as the movie depicted, first took a punt on Charles and gave him the creative space to make his music before he got poached away by the big boys. The other reason (apart from Ray) why Atlantic’s pioneering work in picking out great musicians would feature in my (and many other peoples’) CD collection is that it also signed on Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, among just a few big names.

Once proudly independent, Atlantic itself was acquired by Warner Bros in 1967 but jazz and R&B fans owe it (as well as the musicians it signed on of course) a huge debt and therefore by extension owe the late Mr Ertegun for his role as a risk taking musical entrepreneur.

Here’s an extract from the NYT obit:

    Ahmet Ertegun, the music magnate who founded Atlantic Records and shaped the careers of John Coltrane, Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and many others, died yesterday in Manhattan. He was 83.

    A spokesman for Atlantic Records said the death was the result of a brain injury suffered when Mr. Ertegun fell backstage at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan on Oct. 29 as the Rolling Stones prepared to play a concert that marked former President Bill Clinton’s 60th birthday. He had been in a coma since then.
    “Few people have had a bigger impact on the record industry than Ahmet,” David Geffen, the entertainment mogul, said yesterday in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, “and no one loved American music more than he did.” …
    Mr. Ertegun was the dapper son of a Turkish diplomatic family. He was equally at home at a high-society soiree or a rhythm and blues club, the kind of place where, in the 1950s, he found the performers who went on to make hits for Atlantic Records, one of the most successful American independent music labels.
    He was an astute judge of both musical talent and business potential, surrounding himself with skillful producers and remaking R&B for the pop mainstream. As Atlantic Records grew from a small independent label into a major national music company, it became a stronghold of soul, with Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding, and of rock, with the Stones, Led Zeppelin and Yes.
    Along with a partner, Herb Abramson, Mr. Ertegun founded Atlantic Records in 1947 in an office in a derelict hotel on West 56th Street in Manhattan. His initial investment of $10,000 was borrowed from his family dentist …
    By the 1950s, Atlantic developed a unique sound, best described as the mixed and polygamous marriage of Mr. Ertegun’s musical loves. He and his producers mingled blues and jazz with the mambo of New Orleans, the urban blues of Chicago, the swing of Kansas City and the sophisticated rhythms and arrangements of New York ..
    Mr. Ertegun often signed musicians who had been seasoned on the R&B circuit, and pushed them toward perfecting their performances in the recording studio. Every so often, with his name spelled in reverse as Nugetre, Mr. Ertegun appeared as the songwriter on R&B hits like “Chains of Love” and “Sweet Sixteen.”
    In 1954, Atlantic released both “I Got a Woman” by Ray Charles and “Shake, Rattle and Roll” by Joe Turner. (Mr. Ertegun was a backup singer on “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”) The songs had a good beat, and people danced to them. They were among the strongest roots of rock and roll.
    After his brother Nesuhi joined Atlantic in 1956, the label attracted many of the most inventive jazz musicians of the era, including Coltrane, Charles Mingus, the Modern Jazz Quartet and Ornette Coleman. In 1957, Atlantic was among the first labels to record in stereo …

    Mr. Ertegun’s music partnerships, he sometimes pointed out, were often culturally triangular. He was Turkish and a Muslim by birth. Many of his fellow executives, like the producer Jerry Wexler, were Jewish. The artists they produced, particularly when the label began, were black. Together, they helped move rhythm and blues to the center of American popular music.

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Written by Admin

December 15, 2006 at 6:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. What a great man.

    FDB

    December 15, 2006 at 8:34 pm

  2. Jesus, first Arif Mardin, now this. Another national day of mourning.

    Daniel Barnes

    December 15, 2006 at 8:44 pm

  3. Ease up, he was 83 and died with his boots on.

    If only we could all be so lucky.

    rog

    December 15, 2006 at 9:35 pm

  4. Becky

    December 15, 2006 at 9:44 pm

  5. This is the most cursed Stones tour since 1969.

    Ertegun was the real deal. Stones, Neil Young, Frank Zappa etc etc

    Ertegun recalled in an interview in 2002 the night that led to him signing the Stones. He said: “I met Mick at midnight at the Whisky A Go-Go in Los Angeles. I thought we were just getting together socially.

    “Then Mick started to talk about how the Stones contract was up and how they wanted to be on Atlantic. Somehow I dozed off, which I think impressed him quite a lot.”

    Mick chats to Ahmet back in the day.

    C.L.

    December 15, 2006 at 9:52 pm


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