Ahmet Ertegün


Ahmet Ertegün

Ahmet Ertegün (July 31,1923 – December 14, 2006) was the Turkish American co-founder and executive of Atlantic Records and chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and museum, described as "one of the most significant figures in the modern recording industry". [ [http://www.rockhall.com/inductee/ahmet-ertegun Ahmet Ertegun ] ] He also co-founded the New York Cosmos soccer team of the North American Soccer League.

Background

Born in Istanbul, Turkey, Ahmet and his family, including elder brother Nesuhi, moved to Washington, D.C. in 1935 with their father Münir Ertegün, who was appointed the Turkish Ambassador to the United States in that year. Münir Ertegün was a Turkish Muslim and raised Ahmet as a Muslim. [ [http://www.slate.com/id/2114074/ Interrogating Ahmet Ertegun. - By A.L. Bardach - Slate Magazine ] ] In 1934 it was decreed that every Turkish citizen was to choose a surname; Münir chose the name Ertegün, meaning "living in a hopeful future." [ [http://www.history-of-rock.com/atlantic_records.htm Atlantic Records ] ]

Ahmet's older brother Nesuhi introduced him to jazz music, taking him to see the Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway orchestras in London at the age of nine. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/15/arts/music/15ertegun.html?ex=1323838800&en=e9a65dbf5a97c5b4&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss Ahmet Ertegun, Music Executive, Dies at 83 - New York Times ] ] At the age of fourteen his mother bought him a record-cutting machine which he used to compose and add lyrics to instrumental records. The brothers also frequented Milt Gabler’s Commodore Record Store, assembled a large collection of over 15,000 jazz and blues 78s, and became acquainted with musicians such as Ellington, Lena Horne and Jelly Roll Morton. Ahmet and Nesuhi staged concerts by Lester Young, Sidney Bechet and other jazz giants, often at the Jewish Community Center, which was the only place that would allow a mixed audience and mixed band. They also traveled to New Orleans and to Harlem to listen to music and develop a keen awareness of developing musical tastes.

In 1944 Munir Ertegün died and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery; nearly two years later, in 1946, President Truman ordered the battleship USS "Missouri" to return his body to Turkey as a demonstration of US power opposing Russian demands on Turkey. Ahmet graduated from St. John's College in Annapolis in 1944 . At the time of his father’s death he was taking graduate courses in Medieval philosophy at Georgetown University. Soon after the family returned to Turkey, Ahmet and Nesuhi elected to stay in the United States. While Nesuhi moved to Los Angeles, Ahmet stayed in Washington and decided to get into the record business as a temporary measure to help put him through college, after which he would return to Turkey.

Early career

In 1946 he became friends with Herb Abramson, a dental student and A&R man for National Records, and they decided to start a new independent record label for gospel, jazz and R&B music. Financed by family dentist Dr. Vahdi Sabit, they formed Atlantic Records in September 1947 in New York City, and the first recording sessions took place that November.

In 1949, after 22 unsuccessful record releases including the first recordings by Professor Longhair, Atlantic had its first major hit with Stick McGhee's "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee". The company expanded through the 1950s, with Jerry Wexler and, later, Nesuhi Ertegün on board as partners, and with hit artists including Ruth Brown, Joe Turner, The Clovers, The Drifters, The Coasters, and Ray Charles.

Many independent record executives, like the Ertegüns, were from immigrant backgrounds, including the Bihari brothers and the Chess brothers. The Ertegün brothers brought a jazz sensibility (and many jazz artists) into R&B, successfully combining blues and jazz styles from around the country. Atlantic helped challenge the primacy of the major labels of the time by discovering, developing and nurturing new talent. It became the premier rhythm and blues label in a few short years, and set new standards in producing high quality recordings. In 1957, Atlantic was among the first labels to record in stereo.

Ahmet himself wrote a number of classic blues songs, including "Chains of Love" and "Sweet Sixteen", under the pseudonym "A. Nugetre" (Ertegün backwards). The songs were given expression first by Big Joe Turner and continue in B.B. King's repertoire. "Nugetre" also wrote the Ray Charles hit "Mess Around", with lyrics that drew heavily on Pinetop Smith. Ertegün was part of the shouting choral group on Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll", along with Wexler and songwriter Jesse Stone.

Marriage

In 1961, he married Ioana Maria Banu, known as Mica, who became a prominent interior designer.

Later career

In the 1960s, Atlantic, often in partnerships with local labels like Stax Records in Memphis, helped to develop the growth of soul music, with artists such as Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett. Ahmet heard Led Zeppelin's demo and knew they would be a smash hit after hearing the first few songs. He quickly signed them. He also convinced Crosby, Stills and Nash to allow Neil Young to join them on one of their tours, thereby founding Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Ertegün helped introduce America to blue-eyed soul when he discovered the Rascals at a Westhampton nightclub in 1965 and signed them to Atlantic. They went on to chart 13 top 40 singles in four years and were elected to the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

The Ertegün brothers and Wexler sold the Atlantic label to Warner Bros.-Seven Arts in 1967 for $17 million in stock. Four years later, the brothers took some of the money and co-founded the New York Cosmos soccer team of the North American Soccer League. They were instrumental in bringing in soccer legends like Pelé, Carlos Alberto and Franz Beckenbauer to the club. They transformed the Cosmos into a "dream team". Their love for soccer was the reason that the Cosmos were born.

When Atlantic became part of the Kinney conglomerate in 1969, and later part of Time Warner, Atlantic Records continued with Ahmet Ertegün at the helm, though less directly involved as a producer. He continued to produce some rock acts, such as Dr. John. He also used his considerable personal skills in negotiations with major stars, such as when The Rolling Stones were shopping for a record company to distribute their independent Rolling Stones Records label. Ertegün personally conducted the negotiations with Mick Jagger, successfully completing the deal between The Stones and Atlantic, when other labels had actually offered the band more money.

In 1987, Ahmet was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, of which he himself was a founder. In the late 1980s with the support of Bonnie Raitt and others, he provided $1.5 million to help establish The Rhythm and Blues Foundation to award monies to underpaid blues artists. The Foundation's establishment arose from a lengthy battle by Ruth Brown and other Atlantic artists to obtain unpaid past royalties from the company; other record companies later also contributed. Among early recipients of payments were John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Ruth Brown and the Staple Singers.

Ertegün received an honorary doctorate in music from the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1991, and was awarded the Grammy Trustees Award for his lifetime achievements in 1993. At the tenth annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Dinner in 1995, it was announced that the museum's main exhibition hall would be named after Ertegün.

The United States Library of Congress honored Ahmet as a Living Legend in 2000. With brother Nesuhi, he was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2005, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presented Ahmet with the first "President's Merit Award Salute To Industry Icons". Mr. Ertegün was a recipient of The International Center in New York's Award of Excellence.

Sometimes criticized in Turkey for completely ignoring Turkish music, Ahmet did approve the recording and release of "Music of the Whirling Dervishes" featuring ayin singer Kâni Karaca and ney player Akagündüz Kutbay on his Atlantic label.

2006 injury and death

Aged 83, Ahmet Ertegün was injured after a fall at a Rolling Stones performance in New York on October 29, 2006 for the 60th birthday of former US President Bill Clinton. [http://www.market-day.net/article_37282/20061105/Ahmet-Ertegun-has-serious-head-injury.php] (This performance was captured by Martin Scorcese in the documentary film "Shine a Light)". Ertegün slipped and hit his head backstage. Although he was initially in stable condition, Ertegün soon took a turn for the worse. This announcement was made by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page during the band’s induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame. [ [http://jazztimes.com/columns_and_features/news/detail.cfm?article=10929 Jazz | JazzTimes Magazine > Columns and Features > News ] ] Ertegün slipped into a coma and died later, with his family by his side, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center. [http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/english/5570059.asp?gid=74 Turkish Daily Hurriyet, English Edition] [cite web
url = http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061214/ap_on_en_mu/obit_ahmet_ertegun_4
title = Music pioneer Ahmet Ertegun dies
accessdate = 2006-12-15
author = Nekesa Mumbi Moody
date = 2006-12-14
publisher = AP
]

He was buried December 18 in the Garden of Sufi Tekke, Özbekler Tekkesi in Sultantepe, Üsküdar, İstanbul, next to his brother, his father, and his shaikh great-grandfather Şeyh İbrahim Edhem Efendi, who was once the head of the tekke in his native Turkey. At the garden were hundreds of mourners, including his wife Mica, members of the Ertegün family, Turkish dignitaries and entertainers including Atlantic artist Kid Rock. [http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20061218/music_nm/turkey_ertegun_funeral_dc_5]

Memorial events

A memorial service was held in New York on April 17, 2007. A large part of the evening was given over to musical performances. Wynton Marsalis opened the tribute with the jazz standard "Didn’t He Ramble", Eric Clapton and Dr. John performed "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee", and other performers included Solomon Burke, Ben E. King, Sam Moore, Stevie Nicks, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and Phil Collins. [ [http://www.wyntonmarsalis.org/2007/04/22/wynton-played-at-ahmet-ertegun-memorial-tribute/ Wynton played at Ahmet Ertegun memorial tribute - Wynton Marsalis official web site ] ]

Another informal salute to Ertegün took place in Los Angeles on July 31, 2007, the anniversary of his birth. The tribute took place at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Several of his friends shared anecdotes about their experiences with Ertegün and the assembled gathering then saw a special screening of the American Masters documentary "Atlantic Records: The House That Ahmet Built". Among those who paid tribute to Ertegün in person were: Solomon Burke, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, Keith Emerson, Peter Asher, Spencer Davis, the film's producer (and longtime friend) Phil Carson, Taylor Hackford and event producer Martin Lewis. [ [http://www.modsandrockers.com/schedule.200707311930e.html Mods & Rockers at a Glance ] ]

Andrea Corr's solo album Ten Feet High is dedicated "To the memory of Ahmet Ertegün".

Ahmet Ertegün tribute concert

Led Zeppelin reunited for a one-off show in a tribute to Ertegün at the O2 Arena in London on December 10th 2007.

The band headlined a bill that also included Paolo Nutini, Mick Jones of Foreigner, and Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings who backed those two acts as well as playing themselves. The show was held to raise money for the Ahmet Ertegün Education Fund, which pays for university scholarships in the UK, US and Turkey. The show had been scheduled to take place in November but had been postponed by two weeks because of Jimmy Page fracturing a finger.

Also the Martin Scorsese film "Shine a Light" about the Rolling Stones concert held at the Beacon Theatre New York contains a dedication to Ahmet Ertegun.

Popular culture

*In "Ray", the biopic of Ray Charles, Ahmet Ertegün is portrayed by Curtis Armstrong.

*In "Beyond the Sea", the biopic about Bobby Darin, Ahmet is played by Tayfun Bademsoy.

*Ahmet Zappa was named after Ertegün, who played an important role in Frank Zappa's early career.

ee also

*Nesuhi Ertegün
*Atlantic Records
*Turkish diaspora

Notes

External links

* [http://www.slate.com/id/2114074/ 2005 interview with Ahmet Ertegun]
* [http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/13152069/tributes_to_ahmet_ertegun_by_mick_jagger_neil_young_aretha_franklin_robert_plant Tributes to Ertegun in Rolling Stone magazine]
* [http://www.rockhall.com/inductee/ahmet-ertegun Rock and Roll Hall of Fame citation]
* [http://www.history-of-rock.com/atlantic_records.htm History of Atlantic Records]
* [http://www.myspace.com/ahmeterteguntribute Ahmet Ertegun Tribute site]


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