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Jerry Wexler, Atlantic Records Producer, Dies at 91

Jerry Wexler, a producer for Atlantic Records who helped define rhythm and blues-indeed, he is credited with creating that term-died of congenial heart disease in Sarasota, Fla., on August 15th. He was 91. During his lengthy career, Wexler was largely responsible for boosting the careers of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, the Drifters, Big Joe Turner, LaVern Baker and others, and for positioning Atlantic as a major player. Without his keen ears and maverick spirit, it’s debatable whether the label would ever have signed and made legends of Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Percy Sledge, Led Zeppelin, Cream, the Allman Brothers Band and dozens of others considered cornerstones of the popular music of the ’50s to the ’70s.

Gerald Wexler was born in 1917 and grew up in Manhattan, where he became enamored of jazz during his youth. He began amassing a collection of records and, following Army service during World War II and college in Kansas, he began a journalism career in New York. While working at Billboard magazine in 1949, he came up with the term rhythm and blues to replace what the magazine had been calling “race music.”

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