Ahmet Ertegun, R.I.P.

94257__ahmet_l_1Ahmet Ertegun didn’t invent soul music, but he was present at the birth, as a midwife. And he remained one of the biggest fans and supporters of R&B and its offshoots his whole life. Fittingly, the music mogul, who died last night at 83, spent his last healthy day at a Rolling Stones concert. (On that October day, he suffered a head injury in a fall backstage and had been hospitalized ever since.) The founder of Atlantic Records, Ertegun was instrumental in the careers of the Stones and countless other musicians. The label he founded in 1947 was home, at various times, to acts as diverse as the Stones, John Coltrane, Otis Redding, Eric Clapton, Bette Midler, Led Zeppelin, Roberta Flack, Genesis, Sonny & Cher, Bobby Darin, the Drifters, Wilson Pickett, LaVern Baker, Solomon Burke, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. He helped make Aretha Franklin a star as the Queen of Soul when she moved to his label after she failed to break big with more decorous, less edgy music at Columbia.

Most important, he helped launch modern R&B, first by signing the late great Ruth Brown, and then by shepherding the early career of Ray Charles (a process depicted in the movie Ray, where Curtis Armstrong played Ertegun). Four decades later, Ertegun would help found the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (whose museum in Cleveland bears his name), but really, he was himself the Hall of Fame, the institutional memory of the music since its birth.

addCredit(“Ahmet Ertegun: Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images”)


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  • Ep Sato

    I always dug Atlantic Records. They’ve taken a lot of chances for a major label. RE: Otis Redding, were they the financial backers of his Stax record label, or did he just get his start with them? Either way, anyone who worked with Otis gets instant mega props in my book.
    2006 steals yet another great from our landscape. Que descane en paz

  • Joe C

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Ahmet Ertegun was a true music pioneer. I loved watching/reading interviews with him. As a dedicated Led Zep fan, he wrote his ticket with me by championing them, the best band ever. Ahmet, hope you’ll catch up with Bonzo now. Rest in peace, my friend…..

  • MK

    A whole generation came of age with the music Mr. Ertegun brought to us. It changed us and made us better. Artists that would have been overlooked by the other labels were heard and loved because of him. An amazing visionary. Rest in peace, Mr. Ertegun.

  • Teeps

    What about that whole Cosmos thing? If it hadn’t been for the Ertegun brothers, Pele never would have come to the US.

  • Delon

    I’m saddened by the news of Mr.Ertegun’s death. I’m doubly saddened because i learned of it 3 days late. Mr.Ertegun was a visionary, a devoted fan and patron saint of music and musicians. He worked with and helped the careers of many greats like my personal favs Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler, Otis Redding and Dusty Springfield. I won’t be exaggarating when i say he was the most well-known and influential Turkish-American(along with Mr.Arif Mardin). His legacy will live many years to come. Thanks for the great music for all these decades, Mr.Ertegun. Rest in peace!

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