Ahmet Ertegun: A Celebration

On Tuesday 17 April 2007, a memorial tribute was held in New York City for Ahmet Ertegun. The founder of Atlantic Records and co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame died on 14 December 2006 at age 83 from injuries suffered in a fall at a Rolling Stones’ concert at New York City’s Beacon Theater in October.

With business partner Herb Abramson, Ahmet founded Atlantic Records in 1947 with a $10,000 loan. He parlayed it into one of the most successful labels of all-time. He was responsible for recording Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Ruth Brown, Ray Charles, Bobby Darin, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Cream, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Allman Brothers Band, CSNY, Sonny & Cher, Stevie Nicks, Roberta Flac, AC/DC, Jewel, Stone Temple Pilots, Matchbox Twenty, Kid Rock, Death Cab For Cutie Missy Elliott, and others far too numerous to mention. In 1983, he co-founded the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum with Rolling Stone Publisher Jann Wenner and Seymour Stein (founder of Sire Records).

A large part of the evening was given over to musical performances. Wynton Marsalis opened the tribute with the standard, “Didn’t He Ramble”. Eric Clapton was part of a band that included Dr. John. They performed Stick Mc Gee’s “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” (Atlantic’s first hit) and “Please Send Me Someone To Love”, which was recorded by Percy Mayfield. Later, they backed Solomon Burke for his performance. Other performers included Stevie Nicks, CSN&Y, Ben E. King, Kid Rock and Sam Moore, Phil Collins, and a reunited Genesis.

The rumoured Led Zeppelin reunion did not happen.

Mick Jagger described him as a “wicked uncle with a wicked chuckle. Ahmet was a fantastically well-rounded man who was able to talk about geopolitics, able to talk about medieval Islamic history – and able to pick the next Vanilla Fudge single.” The diversity of the speakers also served as a testament in itself: NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Henry Kissinger, David Geffen, Kid Rock and designer Oscar de la Renta. Daryl Hall (Hall & Oates) said, “He cared first and foremost about the artist and the music – much more than the business. He believed that if the artist was true to him or herself, good business would follow.” Bette Midler, who served as host summed up the evening when she said, “Only Ahmet could have brought this group of people together.”

Cameras rolled, but it’s unknown whether a commercial release is in the offing. The film is expected to go to the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

Where’s Eric!
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