Jerry Wexler, the legendary producer who along with Ahmet Ertegun built Atlantic Records from the ground up to become the dominant rhythm and blues label of its time has died of congestive heart failure. Wexler was the last living founder of the label. His one time partner Ahmet Ertegun passed away in 2006.
As a record producer, Wexler produced some of the greatest artists of his generation, nurturing the careers of such greats as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Solomon Burke, and ushering soul music into the mainstream. As a music editor for Billboard Magazine, Wexler is also credited with coining the term rhythm and blues, changing the name of the chart for such recordings from its original “race records” label. Obviously, the name stuck.
In addition to producing great R&B, Wexler also had an ear for rock and roll. At Atlantic, he played a key role in the development of artists like Led Zeppelin and Crosby Stills & Nash. Wexler also produced records for Dire Straits and Bob Dylan, who earned his first ever Grammy for the Wexler produced “Gotta Serve Somebody” from the Christian themed album Slow Train Coming.
"No one really knew how to make a record when I started," Wexler told the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "You simply went into the studio, turned on the mike and said play." The fact remains that he is responsible for making some great ones, including such classics as Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour” and Dusty Springfield’s Dusty In Memphis album.
Wexler also was responsible for recording the great Aretha Franklin, signing her to Atlantic in 1967 and making a string of great records for the label that are still regarded by most fans and critics as her best, forever establishing Aretha’s reputation as the “Queen of Soul.”
Jerry Wexler, one of the last of a dying breed of great record men, dead at 91.