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AHMET ERTEGUN, FOUNDING CHAIRMAN OF ATLANTIC RECORDS, DIES AT 83

 

 

Staff Report

NEW YORK, 14 December 2006— Ahmet Ertegun, Founding Chairman of Atlantic Records, passed away today in New York City at the age of 83.  He had been hospitalized with a head injury since 29 October, when he fell backstage at a Rolling Stones concert at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan.

Dr. Howard A. Riina, Mr. Ertegun's neurosurgeon at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical Center, said, "Mr. Ertegun suffered a severe brain injury after he fell in October.  He was in a coma and passed away today with his family at his bedside."

Mr. Ertegun will be buried in a private ceremony in his native
Turkey.  A memorial service will be conducted in New York after the
New Year.

"Ahmet never stopped working, because for him, it was never work, it was life", said Atlantic President Julie Greenwald in a statement to the press."He changed the music and he changed the music business, and he is the inspiration to an entire new generation of music people who will strive to follow in his amazing footsteps. Equally at home in New Orleans juke joints and foreign embassies, Ahmet was a human being of rare character, style, and humility.  He was the real deal, and the world will be a far lesser place without him."

Born in Istanbul on 31 July 1923, Ahmet Ertegun moved to the United States at the age of 12 when his father, renowned Turkish diplomat Mehmet Munir Ertegun, became the Turkish ambassador to the United States. Preparing for a potential diplomatic career, he majored in classical philosophy at St. John’s College and started his graduate work at Georgetown University.

A passionate jazz fan and collector of African-American music, Ertegun borrowed $10,000 from his dentist and founded Atlantic Records in New York City in the fall of 1947.  He signed artists, produced records, wrote songs, and supervised the fledgling label.  As he said, "We started Atlantic simply because we wanted to sign a few artists whose music we liked, and make the kind of records that we would want to buy."

Under Ahmet’s direction, Atlantic evolved from a groundbreaking, independent R&B and jazz label into one of the world’s preeminent music companies. The artists Ahmet discovered and the music he pioneered led a revolution in R&B, soul, and rock music that reshaped the modern cultural landscape – forming a legacy that includes such seminal artists as Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, LaVern Baker, The Clovers, The Drifters, John Coltrane, Ben E. King, Bobby Darin, Sonny & Cher, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, The Rolling Stones, Bette Midler, Roberta Flack, Phil Collins, and many others.

Ahmet was founder and Chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  In recognition of his pioneering contributions to contemporary music and culture, he was himself elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987, and the Museum’s main exhibition hall in Cleveland bears his name.  In 1991 Ahmet received an honorary doctorate in music from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and in 1993 he was presented with a Trustees Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.  In 2000, he was honored as a "Living Legend" by the United States Library of Congress, on the occasion of the Library’s Bicentennial.  In June 2006, he was honored with the opening night concert at the 40th Montreux Jazz Festival.  Ertegun was also a member of the Board of Directors of Jazz at Lincoln Center. He was also an avid collector of modern art and an avid soccer fan. He never retired and remained active at Atlantic until his death, serving as Founding Chairman of the company he started six decades ago.

 



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