Friday, August 15, 2008

Legendary Producer Jerry Wexler Dies At 91

Record producer Jerry Wexler, who influenced the careers of singers including Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Bob Dylan, has died aged 91.

David Ritz, co-author of Mr Wexler's memoirs, said the producer passed away at his home in Sarasota, Florida.

Mr Wexler rose to fame as a partner in the influential Atlantic Records label with the late Ahmet Ertegun.

He also coined the term "rhythm and blues" while writing for Billboard magazine in the late 1940s.

Mr Wexler produced the hugely popular Aretha Franklin hit "Respect", itself a re-working of an Otis Redding song.

He also produced the Percy Sledge track, "When a Man Loves a Woman", as well as the Wilson Pickett song, "In the Midnight Hour".

He also helped Bob Dylan win his first Grammy award by producing the 1979 album, Slow Train Coming.

Jazz passion

Atlantic Records became an outlet for groundbreaking African-American talent but later signed rock acts such as Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones.

By the late '60s, Atlantic's legacy proved to be a dividend as many British rock groups chose to be on the same label as their R&B and soul heroes. Cream, Yes, King Crimson, the Bee Gees, Emerson, Lake and Palmer all signed to Atlantic. On a tip from Dusty Springfield, Wexler signed Led Zeppelin, crafting a contract that allowed the band to produce themselves.

Blown away by a young electric slide guitar player in Muscle Shoals, he bought out Duane Allman's studio contract, effectively releasing him to form the Allman Brothers. He signed Southern gospel-tinged rockers Delaney and Bonnie, and the proto-metal band Vanilla Fudge.

In the 1980s, Mr Wexler worked with acts such as Dire Straits and artists including Carlos Santana and George Michael.

The son of Polish immigrants, Mr Wexler was born in Manhattan, New York, in 1917. He developed a passion for jazz and blues in his teens, frequenting clubs in the Harlem district of the city.

He was drafted into the US Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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