ASSOCIATED PRESS: Legendary record producer Jerry Wexler, who helped shape R&B music with influential recordings of Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and other greats, and later made key recordings with the likes of Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, has died, says his co-author, David Ritz. He was 91. Wexler earned his reputation as a music industry giant while a partner at Atlantic Records. Atlantic provided an outlet for the groundbreaking work of African-American performers in the 1950s and ’60s. Later, it was a home to rock icons like Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. He later helped Dylan win his first Grammy by producing his 1979 “Slow Train Coming” album.
Wexler helped boost the careers of both the “King of Soul,” Charles, and the “Queen of Soul,” Franklin. Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke and Percy Sledge were among the other R&B greats who benefited from Wexler’s deft recording touch. He also produced Dusty Springfield’s classic “Dusty in Memphis,” considered a masterpiece of “blue-eyed” soul. Among the standards produced by Wexler: Franklin’s “Respect,” a dazzling, feminist reworking of an Otis Redding song; Sledge’s deep ballad “When A Man Loves A Woman” and Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour,” with a horn vamp inspired by Wexler’s admittedly rhythmless dancing. MORE
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WIKIPEDIA: In 1968, Carole King, one of Springfield’s songwriters, embarked on a singing career of her own, while the chart-busting Bacharach-David partnership was foundering. Springfield’s status in the music industry was further complicated by the progressive music revolution and the uncomfortable split between what was underground and fashionable, and what was pop and unfashionable. In addition, her performing career was becoming bogged down on the UK touring circuit, which at that time largely consisted of working men’s clubs and the hotel and cabaret circuit. Hoping to reinvigorate her career and boost her credibility, Springfield signed with Atlantic Records, home label of an idol of hers, Aretha Franklin. The Memphis sessions at the American Sound Studios were recorded by the A team of Atlantic Records: producers Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin, the back-up vocal band Sweet Inspirations and the instrumental band Memphis Cats, led by guitarist Reggie Young and bass player Tommy Coghill. The producers were the first people to recognize that Springfield’s natural soul voice should be placed at the fore, rather than competing with full string arrangements. Due to Springfield’s pursuit of perfection and what Jerry Wexler called, a ‘gigantic inferiority complex’, her vocals were recorded later in New York. The LP Dusty in Memphis was listed among the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time by a panels of artists from Rolling Stone and VH1, readers of New Musical Express, and viewers of Channel 4. The standout track of the album, “Son of a Preacher Man“, reached #10 on UK, U.S. and international charts. The song was the 96th most popular song of 1969 in the United States. In 1994, the song was revived by Quentin Tarantino on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, which sold over three million copies. MORE
DUSTY SPRINGFIELD: Son Of A Preacher Man