Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ahmet Ertegun, the Man Who Signed Aretha, Ray Charles, the Stones

Ahmet Ertegun, one of the true pioneers in popular music and the founder of Atlantic Records, died Thursday, Dec. 14. Perhaps fitting for a man whose life was synonomous with music, he died of injuries he suffered in a fall when he was attending a Rolling Stones concert in New York City in late October. He was 83.

Ertegun made a huge mark on American music, first signing R&B acts such as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Big Joe Turner, as well as Joe Tex and Otis Redding. The label later signed what turned out to be some of the biggest rock and pop acts of all time, including the Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Bette Midler, ABBA, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. And Sonny & Cher!

When I was a kid, Atlantic was probably the first record label I became aware of. This was the 1960s, and my older sister had a whole collection of 45s with the distinctive red and black Atlantic logo on them. She also had a hits compilation of Atlantic soul and R&B singles, which was one of my favorite albums to listen to.

A few years ago I bought the Atlantic R&B box set, which contained many of the tunes from that old vinyl LP of 40 years ago. And you know the songs sound as good now as they did when I was a kid. Thanks for all the music, Mr. Ertegun. We'll miss you.

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