Ahmet Ertegun, the legendary co-founder of Atlantic Records with Herb Abramson has passed away at the age of 83, ironically as a result of a fall backstage at a Rolling Stones concert this past October. My first recollections of the man were as an avid Stones and Zeppelin fan in the Seventies when I would see this distinguished looking gentleman partying with Mick Jagger at the St. Regis or chatting with Robert Plant (in a neck brace!) backstage at some show in the states. To say that the man was a rock and roll legend is an understatement. His work with Atlantic Records didn’t just create an amazing body of work in rock and roll, his contributions to Rhythm and Blues with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding make the man a prime candidate for one of the most influential people in music, ever. I leave you this statement from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the legend that was and always will be Ahmet Ertegun:
It is with deep remorse and great regret that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum acknowledges the passing of our friend, founding father and Co-Chairman, Ahmet Ertegun.
“Ahmet played an immeasurable role in the explosive growth of popular music since the 1940s and he was one of the driving forces in the development and growth of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland,” said Terry Stewart, president and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. “From Aretha to Zeppelin, Ahmet was instrumental in breaking many of the iconic artists of the last 50 years.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would not be what it is today without his leadership. Ahmet’s guidance, counsel and support will be greatly missed.” The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will display a photo exhibit in memory of Mr. Ertegun. Mr. Ertegun was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
About Ahmet Ertegun: One of the most significant figures in the modern recording industry, Ahmet Ertegun co-founded Atlantic Records in 1947 with partner Herb Abramson. Atlantic was at the forefront of great independent labels that sprang up in the late Forties, challenging the primacy of the major labels of the time (RCA, Columbia and Decca) by discovering, developing and nurturing new talent. Under the guiding hand of Mr. Ertegun – the son of a career diplomat and a lifelong jazz and blues aficionado – Atlantic became the nation’s premier rhythm & blues label in a few short years. The label’s artist roster in the Fifties reads like an honor roll of R&B talent: Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles, LaVern Baker, the Drifters, the Coasters, the Clovers, and many more. During this period, Mr. Ertegun produced or co-produced the vast majority of records released on Atlantic. He even wrote songs for Atlantic artists in the early days using the pseudonym “Nugetre”(Ertegun spelled backwards).
Though he was less directly involved as a producer, Ertegun continued at the helm of Atlantic in the Sixties and Seventies as the company conquered the realms of soul and rock with phenomenal success. During this time, the label brought the music of artists such as the Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Sonny & Cher, Crosby Stills, Nash & Young and others to fans across the globe.
Ertegun served as chairman of Atlantic Records and the Co-Chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until his death. 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 Mr. Ertegun.