The Last Sultan is the definitive biography of a man who changed popular culture throughout the world. As the founder and head of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun signed and/or recorded many of the greatest musical artists of all time, among them Ruth Brown; Big Joe Turner; Ray Charles; Bobby Darin; Sonny and Cher; Eric Clapton; Buffalo Springfield; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Led Zeppelin; the Rolling Stones; Bette Midler; and Kid Rock. Working alongside his older brother, Nesuhi, one of the preeminent jazz producers of all time, and the legendary Jerry Wexler, who produced great soul artists like Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, and Aretha Franklin, Ertegun transformed Atlantic Records from a small independent record label into a hugely profitable multinational corporation. In successive generations, he also served as a mentor to record-business tyros like Phil Spector, David Geffen, and Lyor Cohen.
Brilliant, cultured, and irreverent, Ertegun was as renowned for his incredible sense of personal style and nonstop A-list social life as his work in the studio. Born into great privilege as the son of a high-ranking Turkish diplomat during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, Ertegun spent his life bringing the black-roots music he loved to the world.
A larger-than-life figure, always hip, Ertegun lived in the grand manner but was never happier than when he found himself in some down-and-out joint listening to music late at night. Blessed with impeccable taste and brilliant business acumen, he brought rock ’n’ roll into the mainstream while creating the music that became the sound track for the lives of multiple generations.
With supporting characters like Steve Ross, Henry Kissinger, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jann Wenner, and a host of others, The Last Sultan is the fascinating story of a man who always lived by his own rules.
The eternal music-biz question what exactly do record-label executives do? is explored in this sprightly bio of the legendary Atlantic Records cofounder. Journalist Greenfield (S.T.P.: A Journey Through America with the Rolling Stones) finds Mephistophelian traits in the Turkish-American impresario a preternaturally suave, persuasive schmoozer, Ertegun commits his share of cheats, betrayals and payola but Greenfield credits him with creative midwifery of the rock n roll revolution. We see Ertegun scouting R&B pioneers, spotting potential hits amid the dross, singing backup on the pathbreaking Shake, Rattle and Roll, matchmaking super-group Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and introducing Bianca and Mick. Despite Ertegun s dapper suits, tireless partying, and groupie-squiring, make him the Dionysian soul of rock; he was still hanging out with Kid Rock even after a hip replacement. Greenfield overhypes his subject as great a star as any artist who had ever recorded for his label and his accounts of Ertegun s postmerger boardroom duels with Jerry Wexler, David Geffen, and others in the Warner entertainment conglomerate are, like most corporate turf battles, uninteresting. Still, he gives us a vivid saga of the an industry in its salad days, and of the unholy but fertile union of money and music. Photos.