As many of you know, Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun passed away in December of last year. Ertegun made a monumental impact on the history of music, whether he was helping distribute R&B to a wider audience, writing songs for Ray Charles, or signing some band called Led Zeppelin. He was also one of the founders of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in which he was enshrined in 1997. He touched the lives of many people, including the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, who recently spoke at length about Ahmet at a tribute dinner.
Today we present three audio excerpts from Jagger’s memorial speech. The two men were intertwined, both personally and professionally. It was Ertegun’s Atlantic Records that distributed the output of the independent Rolling Stones Records label. Talking to a packed audience of colleagues and associates, Jagger reminisces about what made Ertegun different than the average record executive, doing business together, and why Ahmet threw the best house parties.
Jagger discusses why Ertegun connected with so many people: “Ahmet was a fantastically well-rounded man, able to talk about geopolitics, able to talk about medieval Islamic history, and pick the next Vanilla Fudge single.”
Jagger, who reportedly took less money just to sign with Ertegun’s Atlantic Records, explains the reason why: “We would play him the tracks we wanted him to hear, the ones we thought would be our favorites. We would play them, and we’d turn around and Ahmet would sit on the couch, and we’d play a song, turn to Ahmet, and say, “What do you think, Ahmet?” and all we’d hear was [snoring]. When he did that, we knew we really had something.”
Jagger talks about Ertegun’s unbelievable party-planning skills: “When I turned up, the two bands that Ahmet had booked for my birthday party was Count Basie and Muddy Waters. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven, really.”