The Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun

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Overview

The Last Sultan is the definitive biography of a man who changed popular culture throughout the world. As the founder and head of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun signed and/or recorded many of the greatest musical artists of all time, among them Ruth Brown; Big Joe Turner; Ray Charles; Bobby Darin; Sonny and Cher; Eric Clapton; Buffalo Springfield; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Led Zeppelin; the Rolling Stones; Bette Midler; and Kid Rock. Working alongside his older brother, Nesuhi, one of the preeminent jazz...
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The Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun

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Overview

The Last Sultan is the definitive biography of a man who changed popular culture throughout the world. As the founder and head of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun signed and/or recorded many of the greatest musical artists of all time, among them Ruth Brown; Big Joe Turner; Ray Charles; Bobby Darin; Sonny and Cher; Eric Clapton; Buffalo Springfield; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Led Zeppelin; the Rolling Stones; Bette Midler; and Kid Rock. Working alongside his older brother, Nesuhi, one of the preeminent jazz producers of all time, and the legendary Jerry Wexler, who produced great soul artists like Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, and Aretha Franklin, Ertegun transformed Atlantic Records from a small independent record label into a hugely profitable multinational corporation. In successive generations, he also served as a mentor to record-business tyros like Phil Spector, David Geffen, and Lyor Cohen.

Brilliant, cultured, and irreverent, Ertegun was as renowned for his incredible sense of personal style and nonstop A-list social life as his work in the studio. Born into great privilege as the son of a high-ranking Turkish diplomat during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, Ertegun spent his life bringing the black-roots music he loved to the world.

A larger-than-life figure, always hip, Ertegun lived in the grand manner but was never happier than when he found himself in some down-and-out joint listening to music late at night. Blessed with impeccable taste and brilliant business acumen, he brought rock ’n’ roll into the mainstream while creating the music that became the sound track for the lives of multiple generations.

With supporting characters like Steve Ross, Henry Kissinger, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jann Wenner, and a host of others, The Last Sultan is the fascinating story of a man who always lived by his own rules.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The eternal music-biz question—what exactly do record-label executives do?—is explored in this sprightly bio of the legendary Atlantic Records cofounder. Journalist Greenfield (S.T.P.: A Journey Through America with the Rolling Stones) finds Mephistophelian traits in the Turkish-American impresario—a preternaturally suave, persuasive schmoozer, Ertegun commits his share of cheats, betrayals and payola—but Greenfield credits him with creative midwifery of the rock ’n’ roll revolution. We see Ertegun scouting R&B pioneers, spotting potential hits amid the dross, singing backup on the pathbreaking “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” matchmaking super-group Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and introducing Bianca and Mick. Despite Ertegun’s dapper suits, tireless partying, and groupie-squiring, make him the Dionysian soul of rock; he was still hanging out with Kid Rock even after a hip replacement. Greenfield overhypes his subject—“as great a star as any artist who had ever recorded for his label”—and his accounts of Ertegun’s postmerger boardroom duels with Jerry Wexler, David Geffen, and others in the Warner entertainment conglomerate are, like most corporate turf battles, uninteresting. Still, he gives us a vivid saga of the an industry in its salad days, and of the unholy but fertile union of money and music. Photos. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
“Ahmet Ertegun was a man who loved his music and wanted others to hear what may otherwise have gone unheard. . . . We first met when the Stones signed up with Atlantic. The stories began to flow and a lot of them are in these pages. Robert Greenfield has done a masterful job of relating them. . . . I shall miss Ahmet. He was a great man and a great friend!”
—Keith Richards

“Ahmet Ertegun was a man of passion, loyalty, generosity and fun, both sacred and profane, who could target like a laser what was authentic and worthwhile in the many worlds he bestrode so seamlessly and successfully. Greenfield’s fascinating biography, The Last Sultan, gets it right, and I envy readers their opportunity to experience the life and times of this extraordinary man.”
—Henry Kissinger

“Robert Greenfield has written a loving, vividly detailed and utterly compelling history of one of the most fascinating lives of the twentieth century. Not only do you get an insider’s account of the building of the record industry and the high times of the rock and roll circus, but of the worldly education of a young man in the diplomatic world of the European capitals and Washington D.C., and American high society in New York’s modern heyday. The Last Sultan is the remarkable odyssey of a truly remarkable man.”
—Jann Wenner, Editor, Publisher and Founder of Rolling Stone

“In many ways, this book is the Bible of rock ‘n’ roll. A sacred tale rooted in the incredible life journey of my friend Ahmet Ertegun who touched not only me but also so many other people in so many ways.”
—Kid Rock

“I found Robert Greenfield’s book on Bill Graham to be one of the best researched music business biographies ever. Now with The Last Sultan, he's topped himself. Ahmet Ertegun is not an easy subject—he was both indelible and opaque—but Greenfield has dug deeper than anyone ever has, to reveal one of the most complex Americans of the last half century."
—Taylor Hackford, Director/Producer of “Ray”

"An excellent biography of a titan in the music industry."
Booklist (starred review)

"Mesmerizing, entertaining, informative. . . . There are a great many delicious stories in this page-turning work. . . . A vivid portrait of Ertegun but also a colorful panorama of the indie record-business during and after its rough-and-tumble years, when bootleggers sold as many singles as the real labels, gangsters were always angling to squeeze in on the action, and payola was just part of the cost of doing business."
—Tom Nolan, San Francisco Chronicle

Library Journal
In 2006, at 83 years old, the businessman with a passion for music who was as comfortable wheeling and dealing in French as he was joking around with Kid Rock died after falling backstage at a Rolling Stones concert. Greenfield—who has written exemplary biographies of Bill Graham and Jerry Garcia—draws on extensive interviews with Ahmet Ertegun's widow, the musicians who worked with him, and his many friends and traces Ertegun's emigration from Turkey at age two, growing love of jazz and early acquisition of around 20,000 78s, first partnership with Herb Abramson and the formation of Atlantic Records, often contentious relationship with David Geffen (founder of Asylum Records), and deep friendships with everyone from Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin to Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. VERDICT Greenfield's definitive biography gracefully sums up the life of a man who, in record mogul Jerry Wexler's words, "had eyes to make records." A must for every collection, this enchanting book captures the life and work of a seminal figure without whom the business of making records would not have had its lasting impact. [See Prepub Alert, 5/23/11.]—Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Evanston, IL
Library Journal
Why read this biography? Because as founder of Atlantic Records, Ertegun brought us everyone from Aretha Franklin to the Rolling Stones. Because Greenfield is a distinguished journalist, novelist, playwright, and screenwriter, as well as former associate editor of the London bureau of Rolling Stone, so[??] he can write. And because to write this he interviewed everyone from Bette Midler to Henry Kissinger. With those cultural connections, this work should be interesting even if your taste runs to Mozart.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416558385
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 11/8/2011
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 784,746
  • Product dimensions: 9.48 (w) x 6.58 (h) x 1.24 (d)

Meet the Author

An award-winning journalist, novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and former associate editor of the London bureau of Rolling Stone, Robert Greenfield is the author of ten books of fiction and nonfiction, among them the classic STP: A Journey Through America With the Rolling Stones, and critically acclaimed biographies of Jerry Garcia, Timothy Leary, and Bill Graham.
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Table of Contents

Prologue: A Day of Tribute in New York xv

1 Coming to America 1

2 The Nation's Capital 20

3 Making Records 37

4 The House That Ruth Built 58

5 Mess Around 73

6 Shake, Rattle and Roll 88

7 Brothers in Arms 104

8 Splish Splash 120

9 Love and Marriage 137

10 The Oak Room 150

11 I Got You Babe 163

12 Hey, What's That Sound 176

13 Selling Out 188

14 Helplessly Hoping 196

15 Romancing the Stones 223

16 The Boy Wonder 252

17 The Years with Ross 268

18 The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 287

19 Clash of the Titans 309

20 Bawitdaba in Bodrum 322

21 "The Encore Was Heaven" 343

Acknowledgments 357

Notes 361

Bibliography 407

Index 419

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