Jerry Wexler, RIP: I'm proud and grateful that Jerry was a friend of mine, beginning the day in 1975 he called me, out of the blue, and said, "I like
Jerry Wexler, RIP: I'm proud and grateful that Jerry was a friend of mine, beginning the day in 1975 he called me, out of the blue, and said, "I like the way you sing. Let's make a record." I couldn't have been more surprised and thrilled if I'd received a phone call from God. I'd grown up listening to Jerry Wexler-produced records. He's one of the reasons I'm a musician. He took me to Muscle Shoals, Alabama and we did an album for Warner Brothers. Being around Jerry was a constant joy. He was a walking encyclopedia of popular American music, especially R&B and jazz. Aside from his important contributions as a genuine musical pioneer, and his unique talents as a producer, he was a wonderful raconteur, a man of exquisite taste, a tough businessman, but a gentleman, and a soft touch for musicians.
I could ask him something like, "tell me about Solomon Burke..." and he'd do an hour of lively, informative and often hilarious commentary on that subject and related topics, one story sparking another. I spent countless hours with him in New York before and after our project, in Alabama while we were recording, and on many occasions in the succeeding 30 years, pestering him to talk about his life in music, which he was always happy to do. I learned a lot. About his experiences with everyone from Ray Charles, to Willie Nelson, to Wilson Pickett, to Aretha Franklin, to Bob Dylan, and on and on. The last time I spoke with him several weeks ago, I opened the conversation by asking how he was doing. "How the hell you think I'm doing," he replied..."I'm 91...!!" What an honor it was for me to have had the opportunity to work with Jerry Wexler. I lost a friend. American music lost one of the greats.