The Turkish Coalition of America remembers a great Turkish American, Ahmet Ertegun (1923-2006) , whose life and contributions to American life was recently celebrated in a PBS documentary, as part of the PBS American Masters series, titled “Atlantic Records: The House that Ahmet Built.”
Ertegun, called "the greatest record man of all time” made indelible contributions to the worldwide promotion of African American music and American popular culture. He also made countless friends for Turkey in his never-ending efforts to create bridges of friendship between Turkey and the United States. He was founder and chairman of the American Turkish Society in New York, one of the oldest Turkish American organizations in the United States.
A young Turk - literally - with an immigrant's passion for the music he heard in the rigidly segregated Washington, D.C. nightclubs of the 1940s, Ertegun recognized that "all popular music stems from black music, be it jazz or rock n' roll or rap." Ertegun's love of American black music led him to found Atlantic Records in 1947. For nearly five decades, Ertegun wrote and produced music, defined careers and changed lives.
Ahmet Ertegun's contributions to American society go beyond music. He and his brother Neshui helped break down racial and ethnic barriers in the nation's capital by organizing the first integrated jazz concert at the Jewish Community Center in the 1940s. They had originally planned to hold their concert at the National Press Club but space was denied to them when Press Club officials learned that the concert was open to African Americans. Ahmet's father, who was the Turkish ambassador to the United States at the time, shared his sons' passion for music and opened the Turkish Embassy for many jazz sessions to both blacks and whites alike--a direct challenge to segregation.
Ertegun also became a trustee of several charitable organizations, including the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, to which Atlantic contributed $1.5m to help R&B singers and players to recover their royalties. He also was also a founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, whose main exhibition hall is named after him. Ertegun was recipient of several Grammy awards and also awarded the Grammy President’s Icon Award in 2005.
He was also honored as a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress.