Somebody Hip: Ahmet Ertegun, 1923-2006
ED KING REMEMBERS: Growing up in love with rock ‘n roll and its extended family, images of Atlantic Records founders Ahmet and Neshui Ertegun and their team of hipster producers, such as Jerry Wexler, were burned into my impressionable brain. I never learned exactly what this group of hitmakers did beside put together the right people in the right places and then get photographed having cocktails with the Beautiful People of the 1970s pop culture scene, but the Erteguns were there in the grooves with every record I loved by The Coasters, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, and then some. Now these titans are gone. All that’s left is Wexler and his deathless stories of barging into the studio to dance out the rhythm he wanted the MGs to play on some great soul record or another.
In a 2005 Slate interview, Ahmet Ertegun was asked for his opinion on Curtis Armstrong, the actor who portrayed him in the movie Ray, which I’ve never seen for fear that it would be yet one more artist biopic in which the artist is portrayed as a thumbsucking idiot savant whose talent could only be brought out by the love of a Strong Woman. What Ertegun had to say tells me more than enough about his role in bridging the best of jazz, R&B, R&R, Classic Rock, and beyond:
“I’ll tell you first, I think he’s a good actor. I think Taylor Hackford wrote a very true description of the feeling that existed between Ray Charles and myself and made a terrific movie. However, you must realize that I’m not the kind of shy little guy as portrayed in the film. I don’t care what the man looks like or anything but it should have been somebody hip.”
They say Heaven has a helluva band, and, if that’s true, their career is now in VERY good hands.