New York (NY), USA – The American Turkish Society announces with profound regret and a deep sense of loss the death of Ahmet Ertegun, the treasured Chairman of the Society and the founding chairman of Atlantic Records. Ertegun, 83, passed away yesterday at Weill Cornell Medical Center, where he was being treated for a brain injury that he suffered after a fall during a concert in late October.
One of the seminal figures in the history of popular music, Ahmet Ertegun was also a prominent philanthropist dedicated to enhancing relations and cultural understanding between the United States and his native country, Turkey. As the Chairman of The American Turkish Society, he introduced numerous American dignitaries, business leaders, investors, and artists to Turkey and garnered support for the country.
During the devastating earthquake near Istanbul in 1999, Ertegun was instrumental in the success of the Society’s Earthquake Relief Fund which raised over $4 million for Turkey’s rebuilding efforts, particularly in education. He also encouraged the Society’s education and arts and culture programs and made possible countless gatherings with prominent government and business leaders such as Henry Kissinger, Turgut Ozal, William Clay Ford, and Mustafa Koc, among others.
President Murat Koprulu remarked that “The Society will deeply miss Ertegun and honor his legacy by intensifying its efforts to meet the ever-important mission of bringing the two countries closer.”
In addition to his endeavors at The American Turkish Society, Ertegun funded Turkish studies departments at Princeton and Georgetown universities. He received over 40 awards in his lifetime for his civic and philanthropic successes. Furthermore, as a well-respected leader, role model, and mentor for the Turkish-American community, his door was always open to those seeking his advice and support.
Born in Istanbul in 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. However, his long-standing love for music led to a luminous career in that industry instead.
Since founding Atlantic Records in 1947, he discovered, signed, popularized, and/or produced Ray Charles, Bobby Darin, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, Bette Midler, Booker T. and the MGs, Cream, the Bee Gees, Led Zeppelin, John Coltrane, Roberta Flack, the Allman Brothers, Genesis, Stevie Nicks, Buffalo Springfield, the Blues Brothers, Tori Amos, and Phil Collins, among others.
He was a founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, to which he was inducted in 1987. He was presented with an honorary doctorate in music from the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1991, a Trustees Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences in 1993, and the “Living Legend” award by the United States Library of Congress in 2000. 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.
The American Turkish Society, founded in 1949, is the United State’s oldest not-for-profit organization seeking to enhance economic, political, and cultural ties between Turkey and the United States. The Society achieves its mission by bringing together leaders in government, including Prime Ministers, Ministers of State and Ambassadors, as well as business leaders, journalists, and scholars covering a spectrum of fields.