Ahmet Ertegun, the music magnate who founded Atlantic Records and shaped the careers of John Coltrane, Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and many others, died today in Manhattan. He was 83.
A spokesman for Atlantic Records said the death was the result of a brain injury suffered when Mr. Ertegun fell backstage at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan on Oct. 29 as the Rolling Stones prepared to play a concert to mark former President Bill Clinton?s 60th birthday. He had been in a coma since then.
Mr. Ertegun was the dapper son of a Turkish diplomatic family. He was equally at home at a high-society soiree or a rhythm and blues club, the kind of place where, in the 1950s, he found the performers who went on to make hits for Atlantic Records, one of the most successful American independent music labels.
He was an astute judge of both musical talent and business potential, surrounding himself with skillful producers and remaking rhythm and blues for the pop mainstream. As Atlantic Records grew from a small independent label into a major national music company, it became a stronghold both of soul, with Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding, and of rock, with the Stones, Led Zeppelin and Yes.
Along with a partner, Herb Abramson, Mr. Ertegun founded Atlantic Records in 1947 in an office in a derelict hotel on West 56th Street in Manhattan. His initial investment of $10,000 was borrowed from his family dentist.
By the 1950s, Atlantic?s records had developed a unique sound, best described as the mixed and polygamous marriage of Mr. Ertegun?s musical loves. He and his producers mingled blues and jazz with the mambo of New Orleans, the urban blues of Chicago, the swing of Kansas City and the sophisticated rhythms and arrangements of New York.
Mr. Ertegun often signed musicians who had been seasoned on the R&B circuit, and pushed them toward perfecting their performances in the recording studio. Every so often, with his name spelled in reverse as Nugetre, Mr. Ertegun appeared as the songwriter on R&B hits like ?Chains of Love? and ?Sweet Sixteen.?
In 1954, Atlantic released both ?I Got a Woman? by Ray Charles and ?Shake, Rattle and Roll? by Joe Turner. (Mr. Ertegun was a backup singer on ?Shake, Rattle and Roll?). The songs had a good beat, and people danced to them. They were among the strongest roots of rock ?n? roll.
NY TIMES: The Obit