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If you have "no place to go," come here!

So long, Jerry, and thanks for all the music

bringiton's picture

Jerry Wexler, dead at 91.

Genius comes in many guises; Jerry danced like a white man, like a marionette with a broomstick up his ass, but he had a sense of rhythm and an ear for the poetry behind the pain of roots music, blues and jazz and soul, that reached beyond race and gender and age into the center of all that is human.

There is a lot of talk these days, about post-this and post-that. Jerry Wexler was post-everything petty and mean and low; he was crazy and wild and had no regard for limits and never backed down from a fist fight, but first and foremost he was a decent human being who saw all others as human too, no more and no less.

This is Wilson Pickett's song but Wexler worked out the rhythm, moved the emphasis to the second beat; not bad, for a white Jew.

In a 2000 documentary about his career, "Immaculate Funk," Mr. Wexler was asked what he wanted written on his tombstone. "Two words," said the famously atheistic Mr. Wexler,

"More Bass."

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badger's picture
Submitted by badger on

Sounds like the start of a joke, but it's one of the events that started a revolution in R&B, jazz and rock 'n' roll - Atlantic Records was founded by Wexler and Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun. The Erteguns were sons of the former Turkish ambassador. Ahmet died in 2006, in his 80s, from complications resulting from a fall backstage at Rolling Stones concert.

Atlantic launched the careers of Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin and later CSN&Y and Led Zepplin.

There's a group of people - Wexler, the Erteguns, Leonard Chess (Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry), John H. Hammond II (Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Dylan, Springsteen), and Sam Phillips (Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash) to whom we owe a debt not only for recording and distributing the blues, rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues, but for advancing the civil rights cause through their promotion of "black" music. They recorded it and got it played on white radio stations.

All of them made a lot of money doing it, but all of them also believed in both the music, the artists who performed it, and the social significance of what they were attempting. They were a significant part of the civil rights movement.

badger's picture
Submitted by badger on

Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton who founded Stax (and Volt) records. Wexler and Atlantic distributed and later picked up a lot of their artists (like Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave), they recorded Otis Redding, and people like Booker T and the MGs and Isaac Hayes got their start at Stax.

dr sardonicus's picture
Submitted by dr sardonicus on

Jerry Wexler was right - along with a handful of others, he really did teach everybody how to make records. Music production has come a long ways since the days you just stuck a mike in front of a poor kid and told him to sing. It was all made possible because of people like Wexler and the others badger mentioned; people who saw genuine artistic merit in the music those poor kids created as opposed to mere dollar signs. Furthermore, people like Wexler proved that you could still make a good deal of money by doing it right.

As time passes, and the music industry appears headed back in the direction of slapping records together to make a buck, the artistry of those like Jerry Wexler becomes more apparent. We may never see another generation like that again.

...for the rest of us

badger's picture
Submitted by badger on

from a session musician: "A lot of contemporary production tries to homogenize the music," says Jim Dickinson. "They take away the element that's alien. Jerry Wexler always turned that element up."

But I think Sam Phillips summed it up better: "Producing? I don't know anything about producing records. But if you want to make some rock 'n' roll music, I can reach down and pull it out of your asshole."