Ahmet Ertegun, visionary co-founder of Atlantic Records, died yesterday. He was 83. He'd been in a coma since falling backstage at the Beacon Theater in October, when the Rolling Stones were playing Bill Clinton's 60th birthday party.
Son of a Turkish diplomat, Ertegun helped shaped the careers of Ray Charles, Otis Redding, John Coltrane, Led Zeppelin. He added Young to Crosby Stills & Nash. He took a gospel singer and turned her into the Queen of Soul.
From the L.A. Times obit:
In the music-industry book "Hit Men" in 1991, author Fredric Dannen described Ertegun as a winking and worldly player: "He had Great Record Man written all over him. He was jaunty, and bald, and had a goatee . He could order a bottle of wine from a headwaiter in perfect French, then turn to his jazzman dinner guest and slip into black jive. Ertegun was one of the original characters of the record business, but the one with the most class."
His colleague Jerry Wexler described Erteguns life as "a brew of rock stars, diplomats, financiers, movie stars, and avant-garde artists". In a typical episode Ertegun once found himself sitting on the office sofa at a party to celebrate an anniversary of Atlantic Records, between two guests who had never met. With perfect aplomb he introduced Henry Kissinger and Wilson Pickett, who threw a high five.