Legend, Pioneer & Founder of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun, Buried In Istanbul
Ahmet Ertegun, one of the modern music industry’s most influential figures who helped propel the likes of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones, has been laid to rest in his hometown after a religious service attended by politicians and artists alike.
The 83-year-old Turkish-born founder of the legendary Atlantic Records label died last Thursday in New York, where he had been in a coma since October 29 after suffering a brain injury when he fell backstage at a Rolling Stones concert.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul was among those who shouldered his coffin Monday, wrapped in a traditional green cloth with Islamic scripture and the Turkish flag, after a religious service at a mosque on Istanbul’s Asian side. “He made the music industry what it is today,” Lyor Cohen, the US chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group, which Atlantic is part of today, said at the ceremony.
The company’s vice president, Kevin Liles, paid tribute to Ertegun’s pioneering role in marketing rhythm and blues and jazz, the sound of poor black urban America, to white audiences in the United States and the world. Ertegun founded Atlantic in 1947, with the help of a 10,000-dollar loan from his dentist, as an independent company that was to become one of the most influential labels in music history over the next few decades.
The company’s early successes came through the development of a stable of rhythm and blues acts which included, among others, Ray Charles, The Drifters, The Clovers and Ruth Brown. As music tastes changed, Atlantic turned to British rock, signing on the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, and to American pop with Sonny and Cher and Crosby, Stills, Nash et Young. Other Atlantic stars included John Coltrane, Cream, Dusty Springfield, Genesis, AC/DC, the Bee Gees, Bette Midler, Roberta Flack, ABBA and the Three Tenors — Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras.
Ertegun was born in Istanbul in 1923. His father was an associate of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who served as a diplomat after the modern republic was proclaimed on the ashes of the Ottoman empire in 1923. Ertegun’s demise left a “big gap” in the Turkish lobby in Washington, where the music magnate maintained close ties with the US political elite. “No one else has done, could have done so much for (the promotion of) Turkey in America,” Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said.