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Book Review: 'What'd I Say' - The Atlantic Story: 50 Years of Music
Ahmet Ertegun, Welcome Rain
By Matthew S. Robinson
(more articles from this author)
2002-12-08
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Title: 'What'd I Say' - The Atlantic Story: 50 Years of Music
Author: Ahmet Ertegun
Publisher: Welcome Rain
Pages: 566

For those in the know, the name conjures up a sense of awe and majesty, for this Turkish dignitary's son is truly one of the potentates of the music industry. From Kings like Albert, Ben E., Carole, Freddie and Martin Luther to Bobby Darin's "Queen of the Hop," Ertegun has worked with and signed a court full of musical royalty and put the Jewel in many top 40 crowns. Who better than to tell the story of one of the greatest labels of all time?

Ertegun's story is both a tale of American music and of America itself. Having come from Turkey with not much to show for himself, Ertegun crafted an empire that rivals nearly any other the world has ever known. In his modesty, Ertegun chooses to focus more on the music than on himself. In indexed and chronologized words and volume-worthy pictures, he details the heart and soul of Rhythm and Blues, Jazz and Pop.

In his nearly infinite wisdom, Ertegun also opts to not go it alone. Instead, he recruits the journalistic assistance of Greil Marcus (Creem), Nat Hentoff (Wall Street Journal), Robert Christgau (The Village Voice), David Fricke (Rolling Stone), Will Friedwald (The New York Times), among other award-winning critics and fans. The only possible fault is the use of Brandy for an end paper illustration (especially opposite the truly legendary LeVern Baker), but it only goes to show that, for over 50 years, Ertegun has been able to not only follow but perhaps predict the times.

It's difficult to say too much about Ertegun's impact and general greatness, but in this weighty and well-referenced tome, he does a pretty good job.


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