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Ahmet Ertegun, 1923-2006

I was really intent on making certain kinds of records, which, in my mind, would repeat some of the emotions I got from records I’d listened to in my collection that gave me thrills. I wanted to make records that sounded like the records I loved. I thought that I could reproduce that somehow.
— Ahmet Ertegun

The founding chairman of Atlantic Records (along with brother Nesuhi, engineer/producer Tom Dowd and producer Jerry Wexler), Ahmet Ertegun passed away on December 14 in New York City. He had been hospitalized with a head injury since October 29, when he fell backstage at a Rolling Stones concert at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan.

According to Atlantic chairman/CEO Craig Kallman, “The music community has lost a pioneer and an icon, and we have lost our father. Ahmet changed the course of modern music and culture, and he will live on through the timeless legacy of work that was created under his direction and care. Musicians loved him because he truly loved them and spoke their language.”

“Ahmet never stopped working, because for him, it was never work, it was life,” said Atlantic president Julie Greenwald. “He started Atlantic with a fan’s enthusiasm, an independent spirit and a deep understanding of the music. Ahmet touched the lives of artists, producers, songwriters and countless others who were blessed by his creativity, wisdom and humor. He changed the music and he changed the music business, and he is the inspiration to an entire new generation of music people who will strive to follow in his amazing footsteps.”

Artists whom Ertegun helped mold include Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, LaVern Baker, The Clovers, The Drifters, John Coltrane, Ben E. King, Bobby Darin, Sonny & Cher, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Rolling Stones, Bette Midler, Roberta Flack, Phil Collins and many others.

Ertegun was also founder and chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987, and the Museum’s main exhibition hall in Cleveland bears his name. In 2000, the U.S. Library of Congress honored him as a “Living Legend.”

To read a full biography on Ertegun and sign the guestbook, as well as watch a video on his career,