Los Angeles (California), USA – Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records, one of the most influential record companies of the late 20th century, died today at the age of 83.
“It is with deep sadness that I write to share the news that our beloved Ahmet Ertegun-a man whose passion for music, entrepreneurial vision, and spirit of humanity stirred the souls of millions-died today at the age of 83,” said Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Warner Music Group.
As the Founding Chairman of Atlantic Records, Ahmet’s achievements over the past six decades are legendary. From a small rented office with two battered desks and a grand piano, Ahmet and Herb Abramson launched a label that would ultimately shape and reshape the course of 20th Century music, decade after decade.”We wanted to make the kind of records that we would want to buy,” Ahmet once recalled. “We were having great fun, and never imagined that we would be able to make a real living out of doing what we loved so much.”
And for nearly sixty years, that’s what Ahmet did-signing, recording, and developing talented artists whose brilliant creative work would come to define entire genres, from R&B to Jazz to Rock & Roll to Pop-and inspire generations to come.
Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner, The Drifters, Ben E. King, Bobby Darin, Sonny & Cher, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, The Rolling Stones, Phil Collins, Bette Midler, Pete Townshend, Manhattan Transfer, Kid Rock-the list of artists Ahmet has personally nurtured goes on and on. And so does their music, which is ultimately the richest tribute to a man who dedicated his life to the most soulful of human endeavors.
The cosmopolitan son of a Turkish diplomat, Ahmet was a man who grew up with privilege, but who spent his free time as a teenager combing through the used record shops of Washington, and going door-to-door through the city’s poorest neighborhoods, buying up old albums. Not with a plan or out of ambition, as most people would define it, but driven by his true hunger for great music, and an almost visceral need to absorb its truth.
“Ahmet was not only the architect of Atlantic Records, but he played a pivotal role in the creation of Warner Music Group-serving as an invaluable advisor as the entire company grew both domestically and globally,” continued Bronfman. “There is no doubt that without his insight and knowledge, WMG would not have become the company it is today.
And while I think all of us admire Ahmet’s visionary talents as a music man and as a recording industry pioneer, it is his lifelong pursuit of truth-as distilled into music-that I find most inspiring. For all of us at Warner Music, it has been an honor to work with Ahmet. He showed us all how to live life with passion, integrity, generosity, and joy, and we will miss him deeply.
Our thoughts today are with Ahmet’s family. May his memory, and the music he helped bring to life, inspire us all to follow our dreams.”
“Ahmet Ertegun was a true visionary whose life’s work had a profound
impact on our culture’s musical landscape, as well as around the world, ”
said Neil Portnow, President of The Recording Academy. “As a Trustees Award
recipient and our first Salute to Industry Icons honoree, The Recording Academy®
had the distinct honor of paying homage to an extraordinary man and one of the
most respected executives ever in the entertainment industry.
His contributions to popular music are everlasting, and his incredible
accomplishments will continue to be celebrated for many years to come. This is
truly a sad day for the music industry and for music lovers everywhere, but his
legacy will shine on forever. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family, his
friends, and all who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
Ahmet Ertegun photo © Bette Marshall, courtesy of Library of Congress.