When those in the know talk about the major behind-the-scene players in the music business, three names always come up: Clive Davis, Mo Ostin and Ahmet Ertegun.
Ertegun’s legacy was secured in February when his widow gave $26 million to Oxford University. The money will pay for at least 35 graduate scholarships every year through the Mica and Ahmet Ertegun Scholarship Fund.
The gift is the most generous for the Humanities in the university’s 900-year history. Ahmet wouldn’t want it any other way. To know the man, I recommend reading Robert Greenfield’s voluminous book, “The Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun.”
It captures the essence of the music mogul who paved the way for so many seminal acts across six decades of American music.
His success with the likes of Cream, Led Zeppelin, CSN&Y, The Rolling Stones, Genesis and Phil Collins is legendary. But his work with Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Aretha Franklin and, Ben E. King speak volumes about the insights he had into popular music and where it was heading.
Such is the legend that Ertegun was the first person to ask Ella Fitzgerald for her autograph in 1935. He lived long enough to party with Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson.
He died in 2006 at 83 still rocking out; he fell backstage at a Rolling Stones concert in Manhattan, according to The New York Times.
“Ertegun had taste, luck and timing — and unlike other, more mercenary industry executives, he actually liked (and even understood) the music he made,” The Times noted.
Greenfield’s book is the first posthumous biography to bring Ertegun’s story up to date, with added perspective.
My favorite Ertegun story has just got to be when I was in England with an artist, who was performing in Blimey. When we arrived at the venue and went backstage, there was a big crowd of performers standing around one man, something you don’t see very often in this vain business.
As we made our way over, smack dab in the middle was Ertegun, basically holding court, as he always did. He commanded that kind of attention, because he could make careers happen.
I only really became aware of the man in the late ’70s, but the book reveals just how important a role he’s played in American music. The one thing I always recognized in him was his great taste in music.
The thing I really relished in the book, were the behind-the-scenes maneuvers with other record executives, the backstabbing and negotiating tactics that went into cutting a record and making an artist a star. Pure gold.
Face it, recorded music was a real business back then. If you’re a music fan, this book’s for you.
Names in the News
David Geffen, Bob Siegal, Eric Eisner, David Salidor, Tom & Lisa Cuddy, Joe Levy, Paul Iorio, Lee Jeske, Stan Stoneward, Jacqueline Boyd, Angelina Beilech, Mark Bego, Raspin, Lisa Robinson, Melissa Daniels, cfs.