Saturday, July 01, 2006

Arif Mardin

I was disappointed to here in the week of the death of Arif Mardin at the age of 74.

Not long ago, I heard a great documentary about him in a Radio 2 series on record producers. (It was available online at the time but doesn't seem to be available any more.)

His biography is extraordinary.

He was born and lived the first third of his life in Istanbul in Turkey. A lover of jazz and big band swing since his teens, in 1956 - in a pivotal event in his life, he went to see Dizzy Gillespie's orchestra perform during a State Department-sponsored tour. (Did Dizzy invent this sort of good-will music ambassador role?)

He met the Gillespie, and also gave some of his compositions to group member Quincy Jones. Jones recorded them for broadcast on the Voice of America, and then helped Mardin secure the first Quincy Jones Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music.

After Berklee he went to work at Atlantic Records as an assistant to Nesuhi Ertegun, a fellow Turkish expatriate who had founded the legendary label with his brother Ahmet.

It was at Atlantic that he made his name, overseeing, along with producer Jerry Wexler and engineer Tom Dowd, Aretha Franklin's matchless 60s output.

Then, over the nest forty years he produced everyone you have ever heard of:
Carly Simon, The Young Rascals, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Patti Labelle, Average White Band, Anita Baker, the Bee Gees, Judy Collins, Phil Collins, Culture Club, Roberta Flack, Hall & Oates, Donny Hathaway, Norah Jones, Chaka Khan, Melissa Manchester, Manhattan Transfer, Modern Jazz Quartet, Willie Nelson, John Prine, Scritti Politti, Queen, Dusty Springfield, David Bowie, Jewel and Ringo Starr ......

I just don't know where to start writing about that so I'm not going to bother.

What I love about 1967 is that after six barren years and Columbia, Aretha Franklin switched to the Turkish run Atlantic records and made the classic album "I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You" arranged by Mardin and driven by the redneck Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and that event tells us more about multicultural and multiracial harmony than any number of po faced lectures.

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