Legendary Music Producer Jerry Wexler Dies at 91

RIP and R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the acclaimed music journalist and producer Jerry Wexler who died today at the age of 91. Wexler helped shape the careers and sounds of soul and R&B legends like Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Solomon Burke, and Wilson Pickett and was the co-director of Atlantic Records for more than 40 years.

Legendary record producer Jerry Wexler, who helped shape R&B music with influential recordings of Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and other greats, and later made key recordings with the likes of Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, has died, says his co-author, David Ritz. He was 91. Ritz, co-author of Wexler’s 1993 memoir, “Rhythm and the Blues,” said he died at his Sarasota, Florida, home at about 3:45 a.m. Friday. He had been ill for a couple of years with congenital heart disease.

Wexler earned his reputation as a music industry giant while a partner at Atlantic Records. Atlantic provided an outlet for the groundbreaking work of African-American performers in the 1950s and ’60s. Later, it was a home to rock icons like Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. He later helped Dylan win his first Grammy by producing his 1979 “Slow Train Coming” album.

Under Ertegun and Wexler, Atlantic provided an outlet for the groundbreaking work of African-American performers in the 1950s and ’60s. Later, it provided a home to rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, Foreigner and Yes.

Wexler helped boost the careers of both the “King of Soul,” Charles, and the “Queen of Soul,” Franklin. Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke and Percy Sledge were among the other R&B greats who benefited from Wexler’s deft recording touch. He also produced Dusty Springfield’s classic “Dusty in Memphis,” considered a masterpiece of “blue-eyed” soul.

Among the standards produced by Wexler: Franklin’s “Respect,” a dazzling, feminist reworking of an Otis Redding song; Sledge’s deep ballad “When A Man Loves A Woman” and Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour,” with a horn vamp inspired by Wexler’s admittedly rhythmless dancing.

Wexler was named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

He continued to work with some of the world’s top recording artist as the decades progressed:

In the 1980s, Wexler worked with Dire Straits, Carlos Santana and George Michael. In April 1988, Atlantic marked its 40th anniversary with an 11-hour concert at Madison Square Garden, with the stage shared by performers from Crosby, Stills & Nash to the Bee Gees to Ben E. King.

 

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