Copyright ©2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

A legend in the music business has died. Ahmet Ertegun, the pioneering founder of Atlantic Records died in New York today. He was 83 years old. His career spanned four decades and crossed several musical genres.

(Soundbite of musical montage)

NORRIS: The music of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. Just a few of the artists who worked with Antlantic Records' founder, Ahmet Ertegun.

In his later years, Ertegun was still a strong presence in the music business. He slipped into a coma after falling backstage at a Rolling Stones concert in October. Jerry Wexler was Ertegun's long time producing partner at Atlantic. He says Ertegun had all the kills that make for a truly great producer.

Mr. JERRY WEXLER (Atlantic Records): There he is sitting behind the talk back directing the session, and there's an accumulation of information, and I think a really good record producer has to have a sense of pitch, a sense of rhythm and the impalpable called taste. Also, he has to be able to change the music that the musicians are playing, that the singer is singing, if necessary. And I can't underline if necessary too much.

NORRIS: Does that mean he has to know when to step back and let the artist do their thing?

Mr. WEXLER: I wouldn't put it that way. It's sort of the inverse of that. He lets things happen unless there's a problem. So it's not a question of stepping back, it's a question of being back and staying back and letting the music unfold until there's a happenstance that needs addressing. And that means changing the music. After all, you know, the producer is a shepherd and the policeman and the guide. It's the musicians who are making the music.

And the arranger would also be there, writing his arrangement more or less on the spot. So everything was ready. That's was Ahmet's spot. He didn't believe in wasting time in the studio.

NORRIS: Mr. Wexler, tell me about his transition into rock and roll.

Mr. WEXLER: That came about, well actually almost by accident. Our first successful rock and roll singer was Bobby Darin. Bobby had a song called "Splish Splash." Ahmet believed in it and he made that record.

NORRIS: Sounds like he was a good businessman as well as a great producer.

Mr. WEXLER: He was a good businessman and he also was very charismatic. There's a story told that when he went to London to try to sign the Rolling Stones, he was sitting and having a couple of blasts with Mick Jagger. And while he was talking to Mick, Ahmet fell sound asleep. Mick Jagger said that's the company for me. If he can go to sleep while he's talking to me, is very cool.

NORRIS: Jerry Wexler, thank you so much for talking to us and talking us down memory lane with your old friend.

Mr. WEXLER: Okay. All the best of luck. I miss him dearly.

NORRIS: That was Jerry Wexler remembering Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records. He died today in New York at the age of 83.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.