Jerry Wexler

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Jerry Wexler, a window washer's son who grew up to become a giant in the music business, supervising historic recordings by musicians such as Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, died Friday morning at his home in Sarasota, Fla. He was 91, and the cause of death was congestive heart failure, his son Paul told The Associated Press.

Mr. Wexler was the last living partner in the landmark record label Atlantic Records.

The label's founder, Ahmet Ertegun, who died at age 83 in 2006, brought Mr. Wexler to the Atlantic in 1953, where the two produced records together through the'’50s by artists such as the Drifters, Clyde McPhatter, LaVern Baker, Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles and others, helping to define the emerging sound of rock 'n' roll.

"The godfather of R&B creators has stepped behind the curtain and disappeared," singer Solomon Burke said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Wexler, who would go on to produce important records by Bob Dylan, Dusty Springfield, Willie Nelson, Wilson Pickett and others, worked with Ertegun in his first days at Atlantic producing 'Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean' by Ruth Brown, a hit that helped the young label survive.

Mr. Wexler even gave the music its name.

As an editor at the trade magazine Billboard, he changed the name of the charts in 1949 from "Race Records" to "Rhythm and Blues."

His work with Franklin, whom he signed to Atlantic in 1967, helped usher in the era of soul music.

Born in 1917 in New York's Washington Heights, Mr. Wexler served in the Navy during the Second World War and attended Kansas State University.

His first two marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, Jean Arnold, his son, who lives in Highbridge, N.J., and a daughter, Lisa Wexler of Kingston, N.Y.

In the 2000 documentary about his career, 'Immaculate Funk,' Wexler was asked what he wanted written on his tombstone. "Two words," said the famously atheistic Wexler, "More bass."
Published in Star-Telegram on Aug. 16, 2008
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