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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Turkish Funeral for Ertegun

By Adelind Osmanlı reporting from Munich, Germany

Ahmet Ertegun has died aged 83Ahmet Ertegun, who died five days ago in New York aged 83, was buried in Istanbul yesterday.

The main founder of music giant Atlantic Records died Thursday after two months in a coma at the New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center. Ertegun fell on Oct 29 while waiting for the Rolling Stones at former U.S. President Bill Clinton's 60th birthday party at the Beacon Theater in New York. He was backstage when he fell and hit his head, resulting in brain injuries that eventually killed him.

The man who changed the sound of popular American music in a career spanning over 50 years was buried in a star-studded Muslim ceremony near the Bosphorus at the Ertegun family mausoleum. US rock star Kid Rock and Turkish singer Tarkan were among those who paid tribute on Monday to Ertegun, who launched the careers of Ray Charles and Led Zeppelin.

Time Warner CEO Lyor Kohen, Jann Wenner founder of the Rolling Stone magazine, Dave Reed from US TV channel FOX and many of Turkey's business elite also joined members of Ertegun's family to pay their respects to him at the ceremony yesterday.

"He performed a great service for the Turkish people ... His death leaves a great emptiness," said Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who represented the Turkish government at the ceremony.

Tarkan said: "He was both father and elder brother for me. He did a lot for me. He was a great man."

"The one thing he loved more than music was Turkey," the state-run Anatolia news agency quoted Lyor Cohen, chief executive of Warner Music Group, as saying.

Pamela Anderson's ex-husband Kid Rock said: "I have met many people, been to many places and seen many things, but he was definitely the best," according to Anatolia. "He could not sing but he was music personified," the agency quoted the singer as saying.

Wenner from Rolling Stone magazine, also paid tribute to Ertegun, saying: "Ahmet was perhaps the most revered, respected figure in American popular music of the modern era."

Meanwhile, Fox executive Reed used the opportunity to stress that Fox was still very much committed to Turkish TV and to keeping Ertegun's memory alive.

Earlier this week Rolling Stones' band frontman Mick Jagger had led the tributes to the music mogul, emphasising that, "He will be fondly remembered by all who knew him and I will personally miss our warm and long friendship."

The Architect of Soul

Atlantic Records, founded in 1947 in New York, has become one of the world's biggest record companies and is now owned by Warner Music Group.

A lover of jazz and blues when they were still unknown to many Americans, Ertegun is credited with helping to pioneer rock 'n' roll by being one of the first music executives to sell music by black artists to white youth in the 1950s.

In his long career, Ertegun worked with the likes of British rock band Rolling Stones and John Coltrane and was also closely associated with the Three Tenors, the superstar combo of Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras. American artist Frank Zappa even named his son Ahmet after Ertegun.

The suave Turk also wrote the Ray Charles' hit "Mess Around", under the pseudonym A. Nugetre (Ertegün backwards). Apart from Ray Charles of whom he was quoted as saying "First time I saw Ray I told him, 'You are the fucking end, you know,'" he enlisted Rolling Stones and others. In Ray, the biopic of Ray Charles, Ertegun is portrayed by Curtis Armstrong. His Atlantic lineup also included Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, Otis Redding, Bette Midler, Eric Clapton and Crosby, Stills & Nash, as well as many stars of modern jazz.

In 1971, his brother Nesuhi founded WEA International, now Warner Music International. In 1987, Ertegun was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, of which he himself was the founder. Nesuhi was inducted posthumously four years later. Ertegun was also was awarded the Grammy Trustees Award for his lifetime achievements in 1993. Nesuhi was awarded the same posthumously two years later in 1995.

The bald, goateed bon vivant was designated a "living legend" by the US Library of Congress in 2000. RJ Eskow from the Huffington Post in regard to Ertegun's legacy stated that Ertegun was the architect of soul: "His signature on musical history is undeniable, and it is beautiful. Ahmet Ertegun, a stranger in a strange land, found the heartbeat beneath the skin of American music. He nurtured it, amplified it, and sold it to America and the world."

Constantly citing Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as his "hero" and holding rare audio archives of his speeches, Ertegun was born in Istanbul on July 31, 1923 - the same year as the Turkish Republic was pronounced - and was educated in Europe and the United States where his father served as Turkish ambassador.

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