J erry Wexler, the legendary record man, music producer and ageless hipster, died at a. Wexler was much more than a top executive — he was a national tastemaker and a prophet of roots and rhythm. The impact of his deeds matched his larger-than-life personality. We witnessed the rise of Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers, and we care about a thing called soul. Wexler was a throwback to a time when record men could be found in the studio and the office, producing the music and running the company.
The Death of Rhythm and Blues
Blessed with big ears — they really were large — his productions generated a staggering number of gold and platinum records. The collective impact of the music he personally produced or somehow ushered into being won him nearly every lifetime honor in the music world.
In , he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, one of the first non-performers to receive the honor.
So this is my first posthumous award. H e was born Gerald Wexler in to a working class family, and grew up during the Depression in the upper Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights. His youth was marked by poolrooms and truancy, until the mids when he was distracted by a music called jazz. No, I was a record collector.
Rhythm and Blues: Intimacy and Transcendence in the Thick of Life - Open Horizons
And we all felt that way. We used to hang out at the Commodore Record Shop, this little in-group, and get together in the evening. A mother who was convinced she had birthed the next Faulkner, and a Stateside stint in the Army during WWII spent partly in Miami helped steer Wexler down a more focused path. He attended college in Kansas upon being discharged, and in returned to New York to pursue a career in journalism and the music business.
In a day when music publishers held more power than record companies, he first worked as a song-plugger, and then as a Billboard reporter. Wexler was the wordsmith, and revered and respected his favorite authors — Hemingway, Fitzgerald, James M.
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Praising a Big Joe Turner big band album, he wrote that Boss of the Blues had been created sub specie aeternitatis. Look it up — the Latin and the album. Ertegun thought and felt the same way.
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They became friends and in , when he asked Wexler to join Atlantic Records, partners as well. It was a gesture Wexler never forgot. You simply went into the studio, turned on the mike and said play. When most radio stations were playing Perry Como and Doris Day, Wexler pleaded, cajoled, bullied and even paid to get airplay for the latest Atlantic singles.
Everyone — black and white — was listening. He was no angel — he could be imperious and had a reputation for unusually erudite, red-faced rants. Working together, the two made a formidable pair, balancing their love of music and music-makers with their will to survive. Similar arrangements with upstart producers Phil Spector and Bert Berns followed. At the close of the decade, Wexler flew British songbird Dusty Springfield to Memphis to record an album that stands as her career best. A new compilation series featuring cat-loving metal bands from every state donating their tracks for local animal welfare organizations.
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