‘I think it’s better to burn out than to fade away’ it’s better to live out your days being very, very active even if it destroys you than to quietly disappear. At my age, why do you think I’m still here struggling with all the problems of this company because I don’t want to fade away.”

-Ahmet Ertegun


Keith Richards & Ahmet Ertegun Photo by Kevin Kane/WireImage.com

Last night in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep I put in my Netflix that has sat on my counter for over a month. The movie was PBS American Masters: Atlantic Records: The House That Ahmet Built. I had heard the documentary was quite good and wanted to find a time when I could devote my full attention.  I am a rock music history junkie. I had no idea who Ahmet Ertegun was but I had seen the name on some records/cds. What originally attracted me to the movie was Atlantic Records was home of Led Zeppelin. I became a huge fan of Zeppelin while in Denmark  which is where they started their career together as The New Yardbirds.

Ahemet Ertegun was a Turkish immigrant who had a deep devotion to the rhythm and blues. Ertegun loved the rock and the roll, jump and swing, and all forms of jazz. He was so passionate about music that he started a record label with no real experience other than it was his hobby. In 1947 he convinced Dr. Vahdi Sabit, a Turkish dentist and long time family friend to mortgage his house and fund his new venture with $10,000. Ahmet also convinced Herbert Abramson  to leave National Records where he was a salesman and create Atlantic Records. Ertegun’s passion was able to convince a lot of different people to come and join the party. Ertegun and Abramson created a team that had no rival in the history of rock and roll.

Ertegun knew there was niche and an unfulfilled need. Atlantic records focused in the beginning on “colored music” known now as American blues.  In the beginning no one trusted a 2 man record company with “songs” to sing on records.  This fact didn’t stop Ahmet, he simply wrote his own songs for a string of washed up has beens promising to revive their careers with new material. Ahmet was trained to be a diplomat in college so in fear he would destroy that career he used Nugetre which is Ertegun spelled backwards for the writers credit.  In his first few years he had a string of top 10 hits with a variety of artists. In 1952 Ertegun convinced Ray Charles to leave his record company and join Atlantic. One of Charles first hits with Atlantic was Doin the Mess Around (see the scene from the movie Ray) with lyrics by none other than Ahmet Ertegun.   This cemented the foundation and roots of the legacy of Atlantic Records.

The movie was a celebration of Ahmet Ertegun’s life and legacy, Rock and Roll. It is whittled down from over 4 hours of personal with Ertegun intermixed with a veritable who’s who of Rock and Roll. The things that I found most interesting about this movie is Ertegun’s success was due to love.  He loved music and it showed. He loved musician’s and it showed by the way they obviously loved him back.  The movie contains some incredible interviews and concert footage as well as a variety of musicians from 1947 until 2007.  It was a fitting end to see that Ertegun’s life ended at a Rolling Stones Concert after falling and striking his head back stage at the age of 83 and still active as the head of Atlantic Records. The man meant so much to Led Zeppelin that they reunited December 10, 2007 for a one night tribute to Ahmet Ertegun.

Ahmet Ertegun


And while the fabulous manner in which he chose to live caused all those with whom he came into contact to love him madly, the real reason Ahmet will be remembered is because by dedicating his life to rhythm and blues, rock and roll, jump and swing, and every form of jazz, from Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner and Ray Charles to the Drifters and Bobby Darin to Buffalo Springfield, Cream, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Phil Collins, Tori Amos, Kid Rock, and Gnarls Barkley, Ahmet Ertegun gave people all over the world, many of whom still do not know his name, the soundtrack of their lives.  -Rolling Stone Magazine

A list of some of the notable artists gathered by Ahmet Ertegun.

Led Zeppelin


Eric Clapton

Ray Charles

Buffalo Springfield

Bobby Darrin

Aretha Franklin

The Rolling Stones

Lynard Skynard

Bette Midler

Kenny Rogers

Cat Stevens


Phil Collins


George Carlin

Otis Redding

Crosby Stills Nash and Young

Related Links:
Read Music’s Tribute to Ahmet Ertegun in Rolling Stone Magazine
Founder of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
List of Artists from Atlantic Records