Legendary music producer Jerry Wexler passed away in mid-August of congenital heart disease at a hospice in Sarasota, Fla.
Wexler, along with the late Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic Records, helped bring R&B music into the mainstream. The duo brought the sounds of Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Otis Redding and other groundbreaking African-American musicians onto the airwaves. Later, Wexler would help define the careers of Dusty Springfield, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and many more.
“He loved black music, R&B music, and rhythm and blues was his foundation,” Solomon Burke told the AP after hearing of Wexler’s passing. “He had a feeling for it, he had the knack to keep it going in his heart and recognize the talent that he felt was real. Jerry Wexler didn’t change the sound of America; he put the sound to the public. He opened the doors and windows to the radio stations — and made everybody listen.”
Wexler’s first foray in the music biz was landing a job writing for Billboard magazine in the late 1940s after serving in WWII and studying journalism in college. At Billboard, he coined the term “rhythm and blues” for the magazine’s black music charts; they were listed under “race records” previously. While at the magazine, Wexler met Ertegun and so began the groundbreaking label Atlantic.
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