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Gerald "Jerry" Wexler (January 10, 1917 – August 15, 2008) was a music journalist turned music producer, and was regarded as one of the major record industry players behind music from the 1950s through the 1980s. He coined the term "rhythm and blues", and was integral in signing and/or producing many of the biggest acts of the last 50 years, including Ray Charles, the Allman Brothers, Chris Connor, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, Wilson Pickett, Dusty Springfield and Bob Dylan. Wexler was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker in 1987. Jerry Wexler was one of the most highly-regarded A&R men in popular music history, a status bolstered by his accomplishments with Aretha Franklin.

Early life

Wexler was born in The Bronxmarker, New York Citymarker, into a Jewish family, and grew up in the Washington Heightsmarker neighborhood of Upper Manhattan. He graduated from George Washington High School marker in Washington Heights at age 15 and dropped out after two semesters at City College of New Yorkmarker.

Career

During his time as an editor, reporter, and writer for Billboard Magazine, Wexler coined the term "rhythm and blues." He became a partner in Atlantic Records in 1953. There followed classic recordings with Ray Charles, the Drifters and Ruth Brown. With Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegün, he built Atlantic Records into a major force in the recording industry. In 1967 he was named Record Executive of the Year for turning Aretha Franklin's career around.

In the 1960s, he notably recorded Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin, and oversaw production of Dusty Springfield's highly acclaimed Dusty in Memphis and Lulu's New Routes albums. He also cultivated a tight relationship with Stax Records, was an enormous proponent of the then-developing Muscle Shoals Sound and founded the fortunes of Muscle Shoals Sound Studiosmarker and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. His work in this decade put Atlantic at the forefront of soul music.

In 1968, he and Ahmet Ertegun signed Led Zeppelin to Atlantic Records on the recommendation of singer Dusty Springfield and from what they knew of the band's guitarist, Jimmy Page from his performances with The Yardbirds.

In 1975 Wexler left Atlantic Records for Warner Bros. Records.

In 1979, Wexler produced Bob Dylan's controversial first "born again" album, Slow Train Coming at Muscle Shoals; a single from that album, "Gotta Serve Somebody," won a Grammy award in 1980. When Wexler agreed to produce, he was unaware of the nature of the material that awaited him. "Naturally, I wanted to do the album in Muscle Shoals - as Bob did - but we decided to prep it in L.A., where Bob lived," recalled Wexler. "That's when I learned what the songs were about: born-again Christians in the old corral... I like the irony of Bob coming to me, the Wandering Jew, to get the Jesus feel... [But] I had no idea he was on this born-again Christian trip until he started to evangelize me. I said, 'Bob, you're dealing with a sixty-two-year-old confirmed Jewish atheist. I'm hopeless. Let's just make an album.'"

In 1983, Wexler recorded with UK pop star George Michael. The most famous outtake of these sessions would prove to be a rare early version of "Careless Whisper," recorded in Muscle Shoals.

In 1987 Wexler was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker.Wexler retired from the music business in the late 1990s.

Movie portrayal

In Ray, the biopic of Ray Charles, Jerry Wexler is portrayed by Richard Schiff.

Interviews and archive footage of Wexler are featured prominently in the 2000 documentary film Immaculate Funk, which explores the roots of the classic American R&B and soul music.

Death

Jerry Wexler died at his home in Sarasota, Floridamarker, on August 15, 2008, from congestive heart failure. Asked by a documentary filmmaker several years before his death what he wanted on his tombstone, Wexler replied "Two words: 'More bass.’”

See also





References

  1. Kahn, Ashley. "Jerry Wexler: The Man Who Invented Rhythm & Blues: Aretha Franklin producer, Atlantic Records co-chief and music business pioneer dies at age 91", Rolling Stone, August 15, 2008. Accessed August 17, 2008. "He was born Gerald Wexler in 1917 to a working class family, and grew up during the Depression in the upper Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights."
  2. Italie, Hillel, via the Associated Press. "Record producer Jerry Wexler dies", The Kansas City Star, August 17, 2008. Accessed August 17, 2008.
  3. Welch, Chris (1994) Led Zeppelin, London: Orion Books. ISBN 0-85797-930-3, p. 31


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