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The Legacy of Jerry Wexler

The Legacy of Jerry Wexler

Jerry Wexler died, at the age of 91, late last week. I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize the man was still alive. It’s still sad news. I haven’t been sure what to say here, and then I found this tribute from Rolling Stone, which kinda sums it up better than anyone else could. Wexler was more than a pioneer of pop music, he helped usher a cultural revolution. From the Rolling Stone piece:

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. Because of him, we use the term “rhythm and blues” and we hail Ray Charles as “Genius” and Aretha Franklin as “Queen.” We came to know of a record label called Stax and a small town called Muscle Shoals, Alabama. We witnessed the rise of Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers, and we care about a thing called soul.

In the ’50s, Wexler’s studio work helped introduce white ears to the royalty of R&B: Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner, the Drifters, LaVern Baker, Chuck Willis. In the ’60s as the age of R&B gave way to the rock and soul era, Wexler and Ertegun steered Atlantic into a lead position among labels, releasing music by Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, Cream and Led Zeppelin, Solomon Burke and Wilson Pickett, Duane Allman, and Willie Nelson. In the ’70s, Wexler departed Atlantic and went freelance, producing soundtracks for films by Louis Malle and Richard Pryor, and recording albums with Bob Dylan, Dire Straits, and Etta James and others.

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