Ahmet Ertegün

Written by Michael Oshust

Who was Ahmet Ertegün?  He has been defined as "One of the most significant figures in the modern recording industry."

Ahmet Ertegün was a Turkish-American businessman, songwriter, and philanthropist. Ertegün was best known as the co-founder and president of Atlantic Records and for discovering and championing many leading rhythm & blues and rock musicians. At the time when other record labels did not want blues or jazz music, and Ertegün wanted them for Atlantic Records. In the 1950s Atlantic Records signed Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner, The Clovers, The Drifters, Duke Ellington, The Coasters and Ray Charles.

Atlantic Records was among the first labels to record in stereo, and in 1957 was the first record company to utilize an 8-track tape machine.

In the 1960s, Atlantic Records, often in partnerships with local labels like Stax Records in Memphis, helped to develop the growth of soul music, with artists such as Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett. In 1968, Ertegün heard Led Zeppelin's demo and knew they would be a smash hit after hearing the first few songs, and quickly signed them. Other major acts that were signed by Ertegün were Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and AC/DC.

Ahmet Ertegün with Ray Charles

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame recognizes and archives the history of the best-known and most influential artists, producers, engineers, and other notable figures who have had some major influence on the development of rock and roll. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was established on April 20, 1983, by Ertegün, founder and chairman of Atlantic Records.


In 1986, Ertegün announced that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame will be built in Cleveland, Ohio as the Hall of Fame's permanent home. In 1987 Ertegün was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, of which he himself was a founder. In the late 1980s, with the support of Bonnie Raitt and others, he provided $1.5 million to help establish the Rhythm and Blues Foundation to award money to underpaid blues artists.

On October 29, 2006, Ahmet Ertegün attended a Rolling Stones benefit concert at the Beacon Theatre for the Clinton Foundation, which was attended by former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Before the show Ertegün was backstage in a VIP area when he tripped and fell, striking his head on the concrete floor. He was immediately rushed to the hospital after the fall (the Rolling Stones' performance that evening was captured by Martin Scorsese in the documentary film entitled "Shine a Light"). Although Ahmet Ertegün was in stable condition, he took a turn for the worse. This announcement was made by Jimmy Page during the band's induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame on November 14, 2006. Page indicated that Ahmet Ertegun's health declined and he sank into a coma. 


Ahmet Ertegün (record executive, producer and songwriter; born July 31, 1923) died December 14, 2006.

On September 12, 2007, it was confirmed during a press conference that there would be a Tribute Concert for Ahmet Ertegün at the O2 Arena in London by promoter Harvey Goldsmith. Goldsmith also confirmed that the surviving members of Led Zeppelin would reunite, with Jason Bonham filling in on drums.


According to Guinness World Records 2009, the concert holds the world record for the "Highest Demand for Tickets for One Music Concert" as 20 million requests for the reunion show were rendered online.

The show opened with a band consisting of Keith Emerson, Chris Squire, Alan White and Simon Kirke with the brass section from Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings. The show also featured Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, Paul Rodgers, Paolo Nutini, and Foreigner as supporting acts. Led Zeppelin, who performed their first full-length concert for almost three decades, since the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980, performed 16 songs—including two encores—from across their career, excluding their final studio album, "In Through the Out Door." 

Music Speaks Louder was fortunate to be at the historic event.

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