By Harut Sassounian
Ahmet Ertegun, the Founder and CEO of Atlantic Records passed away on Dec. 14, 2006 at the age of 83. He was the most famous Turkish American. His death was announced in newspapers and TV networks throughout the world. He was the son of Mehmet Ertegun, the former Turkish Ambassador to the
Ahmet Ertegun was a music magnate who launched the careers of many great singers and groups, such as Ray Charles, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.
A couple of years ago, I received a surprising phone call from this prominent Turk. Ertegun said he was calling from
Ertegun arrived in
Ertegun said he had read about the Armenian Genocide in many Western books, but had not seen a single reputable book that denied its occurrence. He referred to Turkish officials who denied the Genocide as being “Turk ghafali,” implying that they had a stubborn Turkish mentality. We explored various ideas on how to encourage the Turkish government to acknowledge the Genocide. He suggested that he and I fly to
Before leaving, he asked me again to fly to
It is a shame that the public statement we had discussed regarding the Armenian Genocide never materialized. I was aware that he was a very influential man both in the
I could not write this column while he was alive since I did not want to make him the target of hate mails and threats from Turkish extremists by alerting them that he was considering the possibility of issuing a public statement on the Armenian Genocide. Alas, he passed away without being able to do so which is a loss for both Armenians and Turks. I hasten to add that it was a greater loss for
Ahmet Ertegun, Founder of Atlantic Records, Dies
By Tim Weiner
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 today 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
“Few people have had a bigger impact on the record industry than Ahmet,” David Geffen, the entertainment mogul, said today in a telephone interview from
Mr. Geffen said that Mr. Ertegun “started me in the record business” in 1970 by helping to finance his own record company, Asylum, “just as he gave many independent entrepreneurs the chance to start their own companies.”
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 rhythm and blues for the pop mainstream. As Atlantic Records grew from a small independent label into a major national music company, it became a stronghold both of soul, with Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding, and of rock, with the Stones, Led Zeppelin and Yes.
Ever conscious of the music?s roots, Mr. Ertegun was also a prime mover in starting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in
Mr. Ertegun said he fell in love with music when he was 9. In 1932, his older brother, Nesuhi, took him to see the Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway orchestras at the Palladium Theater in
His instincts were not impeccable. He lost out on chances to sign the Beatles and Elvis Presley. But in an industry in which backstabbing is commonplace, Mr. Ertegun was admired as a shrewd businessman with a passion for the creative artists and the music he nurtured.
Along with a partner, Herb Abramson, Mr. Ertegun founded Atlantic Records in 1947 in an office in a derelict hotel on
By the 1950s,
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.”
After his brother Nesuhi joined
By the 1960s, often in partnerships with local labels like Stax in Memphis, Mr. Ertegun was selling millions of recordings by the leading soul musicians of the day, among them Ms. Franklin and Mr. Redding. Ms. Franklin had recorded previously for Columbia Records, but her hits for
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.
Mr. Ertegun and Ioana Maria Banu were married on April 6, 1961. Known as Mica, she became a prominent interior designer. She survives him, as does a sister.
The Ertegun brothers and their partner, Mr. Wexler, sold the Atlantic label to Warner Brothers-Seven Arts in 1967 for $17 million in stock. Four years later, the brothers took some of the money and founded the New York Cosmos soccer team.
But Mr. Ertegun kept making records. When the Kinney Corporation ? a conglomerate of parking lots, funeral parlors, rental cars and other unmusical enterprises ? completed the acquisition of Warner Brothers-Seven Arts in 1969, he and his label kept going.
Mr. Ertegun was now a rock mogul. Atlantic Records signed the Stones, Led Zeppelin and Crosby, Stills and Nash, who became
It remained one of the only record labels of the 1940s to survive the multibillion-dollar mergers and acquisitions of the 1990s in more than name only, with its founder still in charge. Mr. Ertegun reduced his daily corporate duties in 1996 but remained an inveterate night-clubber, avid concertgoer and insatiable music maven well into his 80s.
Ahmet Ertegun was born in
In 1925, Ataturk sent the elder Ertegun to serve as the Turkish representative to the
That year, at 21, having earned a bachelor?s degree at
“In between, I spent hours in a rhythm and blues record shop in the black ghetto in
“I had to decide whether I would go into a scholastic life or go back to
Source: “The New York Times”, December 14, 2006
Photo: Turkish Foreign Minister, Istanbul Mayor and other personalities attend the funeral of Ahmet Ertegun.