Susan Lacy on Ahmet Ertegun

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Thirteen/WNET New York
TCA Press Tour, January 2007
Susan Lacy
(3 Minutes)

Good afternoon, and welcome. I’m Susan Lacy, creator and executive producer of AMERICAN MASTERS.

It’s wonderful to be back at press tour. But it’s with a heavy heart that I join you here today – a day I’d hoped to share with Atlantic Records founding chairman Ahmet Ertegun. I know he was looking forward to being with so many of his old friends on stage and doing what he loved best – talking music.

As most of you know, Ahmet passed away December 14. I consider myself blessed to have spent so much time with him over the last four years, as AMERICAN MASTERS worked on the upcoming film on Ahmet and his astonishing 60-year career with one of the most influential labels of our time – Atlantic Records.

No matter who we called during filming – Mick Jagger, Aretha Franklin or David Geffen – they were more than eager to share their stories about Ahmet. He led an incredible life. Born in Turkey, Ahmet brought a unique blend of Old World charm, European sophistication and American enthusiasm to everything he did. As Bette Midler said: “Ahmet was Mr. Stork Club, but at the same time he was also Mr. Cotton Club.”

And by the time he was 47, Ahmet Ertegun was the greatest rock-and-roll mogul in the world. The powerhouse “Atlantic Sound” he helped create reflects the very best of American music, from jazz and blues to rock and R&B. Our 90-minute film, scheduled to air this May on PBS, will show how one immigrant’s passion for African-American music influenced the entire direction of contemporary music – and still does.
How do you possibly sum up a great man’s life? It’s impossible. But with this film, we hope to strike at the core of what drove Ahmet Ertegun. It was, simply – beautifully – his love of music.

Here’s a clip of what is sure to be a highlight of the upcoming 21st season of AMERICAN MASTERS which, I might add, is being honored with a duPont-Columbia “Silver Baton” for excellence in broadcast journalism for No Direction Home: Bob Dylan.
[lights, 4-minute Atlantic Records reel]
I’m sure that somehow, some way Ahmet is getting a kick out of all the familiar faces gathered here today — each of whom played a substantial part in the success of Atlantic Records. Please join me in welcoming producer extraordinaire Phil Carson and our Rock and Roll Hall of Famers to the stage.

Ben E. King is well known for his many hits with The Drifters and jukebox classics like “This Magic Moment.” He also had a hit with “Don’t Play That Song” – co-written by Ahmet Ertegun. And, of course, he’ll always be synonymous with the timeless standard “Stand By Me,” written by the celebrated songwriting team of Leiber & Stoller.

As Phil says, to call Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller songwriters is like saying William Shakespeare was a playwright. They are rightly credited with some of the most spirited R&B songs of our generation, including “Spanish Harlem” and a long list of Elvis Presley hits, like “Jailhouse Rock” and “Hound Dog.”

With his flowing cape, Solomon Burke was dubbed “The King of Rock and Soul.” A mainstay of Atlantic Records’ “soul clan,” he enjoyed such hits as “Cry to Me” and “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.” His latest CD is the critically-acclaimed “Nashville.”

To list Phil Carson’s accomplishments is to cite a part of rock and roll history: he ran Atlantic Records outside the US for 18 years and helped usher in the careers of such mega-bands as Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. He’s also known for playing bass for Dusty Springfield and jamming with Led Zeppelin, Genesis and AC/DC. But most of all, Phil was Ahmet’s very close friend and long-time Atlantic colleague.

I’d now like to open the floor up to your questions.
Thank you all.
— End —
September 2, 2009


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