Ahmet Ertegun, 1923-2006As soon as news of Ahmet Ertegun's death on December 13 became known, tributes to his standout qualities as a music executive began to pour in.
Particularly striking was how often his respect for others was part of a person's memories. As just one example, Robert Hilburn, long-time pop music critic at the Los Angeles Times, says:
Generations of music entrepreneurs and executives — David Geffen, Chris Blackwell, Doug Morris, Jimmy Iovine and countless others — have cited him as a hero and role model.National Public Radio provides an appreciative overview of Ertegun's career.
Through it all, Ertegun, a shy, sophisticated man with a great appreciation for art, carried himself with dignity and humility.
He did few interviews because he felt the spotlight should always be on the musicians, but I managed to get him to sit down a few times to talk about building Atlantic. His eyes twinkled as he talked about first hearing Eric Clapton in London in the mid-'60s, or about watching Bobby Darin grow from the novelty of "Splish Splash" to the mainstream boldness of "Mack the Knife."
The quality that struck me most was his genuine respect for the music and the musicians.