Monday, August 18, 2008

Losing a Legend

Legendary music pioneer Jerry Wexler died over thw weekend at his home in Siesta Key, Florida of congestive heart failure at age 91, according to Billboard.

Wexler is best known for his years as one of the heads of Atlantic Records, along with partners Herb Abramson and Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun, and played a pivotal role in the careers of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Roberta Flack, and many others.

Solomon Burke paid tribute to Wexler, telling The Associated Press, "He loved black music, R&B music and rhythm and blues was his foundation. 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 open the doors and windows to the radio stations... and made everybody listen."

Throughout his 50-plus year career, Wexler produced or co-produced such seminal tracks as Aretha Franklin's "Respect" and "Chain Of Fools"; Wilson Pickett's "In The Midnight Hour"; Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman"; Dusty Springfield's "Son Of A Preacher Man"; and Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody," among others.

Wexler is directly responsible for bringing the Stax-Volt label into the mainstream, and helping develop the Muscle Shoals' FAME studio sound into becoming a driving force in R&B and rock radio.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Wexler started his career in 1947 at BMI writing continuity copy to plug the organization's songs for radio stations. That same year he joined the staff of Billboard and coined the phrase "Rhythm & Blues" to replace the term "race records" for music made by black artists.

In 1951 Wexler joined Atlantic as a partner and began establishing hits with R&B legends Ruth Brown, Joe Turner, the Drifters, and Ray Charles -- including producing such classics as "I've Got A Woman," among others.

In the 1960's Wexler signed a distribution deal with the Memphis-based Satellite Records, which soon became known as Stax Records, and launched the careers of Carla Thomas, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. and the MG's, among many others.

Wexler was the point man for Atlantic in launching such subsidiary labels as the Rolling Stones' Rolling Stones Records, Led Zeppelin's Swan Song Records, and Capricorn Records, which catered to numerous Southern rock acts as the Allman Brothers Band, Elvin Bishop, and the Marshall Tucker Band.

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