Rest In Peace Mr. Mardin: Arif Mardin, 1932-2006

Mister D: I just had to post today when I heard the news about Mr. Mardin’s death. The music he helped to create is so much a part of me that it’s almost like losing something of myself. It’s a sad day, but he left us all a beautiful gift…some of the most divine music we have ever heard.

June 27, 2006
Arif Mardin, Music Producer for Pop Notables, Dies at 74

Arif Mardin, the Turkish-American record producer who was one of the most successful and artistically significant behind-the-scenes figures in popular music in the last half-century, died on Sunday at his home in New York City. He was 74.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, said his son Joe.

An arranger and composer as well as a producer, Mr. Mardin was a guiding force behind hit records by many pop luminaries, most notably Aretha Franklin, the Bee Gees, Bette Midler, Chaka Khan and Norah Jones, whose careers he was instrumental in shaping. Winner of 12 Grammys, including two for best producer, nonclassical (in 1976 and 2003), he was a major architect of the pop-soul style nicknamed the Atlantic Sound in the late 1960’s.

That influential style was a three-way collaboration with his fellow Atlantic Records producers Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd; Mr. Mardin was the arranger of the three. It resulted in a series of stirring groundbreaking pop-gospel albums that catapulted the career of the young Aretha Franklin out of the doldrums and earned her the nickname Queen of Soul. The same basic formula of recording with Southern musicians was successfully applied to a number of other artists, most notably Dusty Springfield in her classic “Dusty in Memphis” album.

Out of the Atlantic Sound grew the sophisticated mainstream style of rhythm and blues made by white musicians that he developed working with artists like Daryl Hall and John Oates, Average White Band and the Bee Gees that was labeled “blue-eyed soul.” His work with the Bee Gees reignited their stalled career and directly influenced their score for “Saturday Night Fever,” whose soundtrack became the best-selling album of all time before being surpassed by Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

His association with Atlantic, which was founded by his fellow Turks Ahmet Ertegun and his brother Nesuhi, began in 1963, lasted for nearly four decades until he retired in 2001. He then began a new corporate relationship as senior vice president and co-general manager of the EMI label Manhattan Records. His first project there was producing Ms. Jones’s debut album, “Come Away With Me,” a spare, elegant hybrid of folk, country, pop and jazz for Manhattan’s sister label, Blue Note. He was also co-producer of its hit follow-up, “Feels Like Home.”

In addition to his son, Joe, who is also a record producer and arranger, Mr. Mardin is survived by his wife of 48 years, Latife, and two daughters, Julie and Nazan Joffre.

Some of his most famous hits as a producer include “Jive Talkin’ ” (the Bee Gees), “Send in the Clowns” (Judy Collins), “Against All Odds” (Phil Collins), “The Wind Beneath My Wings” (Ms. Midler), “You Belong to Me” (Carly Simon) and “I’m Every Woman” (Ms. Khan).

Born to an aristocratic family in Istanbul, Mr. Mardin graduated from Istanbul University, where he studied economics. An ardent jazz fan and self-taught arranger and composer, he met Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones at a jazz concert in Istanbul in 1956 and so impressed them with his work that he became the recipient of the first Quincy Jones Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Bitten by the pop music bug, he began his music business career at Atlantic in 1963 as an assistant to Nesuhi Ertegun, rapidly working his up the ladder, becoming a house producer and arranger for the label and eventually senior vice president.

He collected gold and platinum albums and in 1990 was inducted into the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. He also worked sporadically as a composer of jazz and big-band pieces and in the 1990’s completed an opera, “I Will Wait.”

At the time of his death he was recording a collection of his own compositions performed by Ms. Jones, Ms. Midler, Ms. Khan, Ms. Simon and Dianne Reeves, among others, with his son as co-producer.

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