MARDIN (1932 - 2006)
Arif Mardin has died aged 73. One look at his discography merits
his status among the 20th century's most important music producers.
From his early work with the Young Rascals and Aretha Franklin to
his recent productions for Jewel and Norah Jones, Arif Mardin transcended
genres and contributed to many of contemporary music's most brilliant
works. Atlantic Records' Ahmet Ertegun declared, "In a business
often driven by trend and fashion, Arif [remained] a true artist,
a man of incredible musical talent. In contrast to many other producers,
Arif [did] not have one sound that [dominated] his records. Rather,
he [created] an environment unique to each performer, the common
link being exceptional quality and taste. As a result, for over
four decades, he helped singers and musicians of very different
styles do the best work of their careers." In his career he
collected over 40 gold and platinum albums, over 15 Grammy nominations
and six Grammy awards.
Mardin worked with many of the most illustrious artists in the
history of contemporary music, including the Average White Band,
Anita Baker, the Bee Gees, Petula Clark, Judy Collins, Phil Collins,
Culture Club, King Curtis, Roberta Flack, Hall & Oates, Donny
Hathaway, Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, Lulu, Melissa
Manchester, Manhattan Transfer, Bette Midler, Modern Jazz Quartet,
Willie Nelson, Laura Nyro, John Prine, Diana Ross, Scritti Politti,
Dusty Springfield, Barbara Streisand, Dionne Warwick and many more.
Born in Istanbul, Turkey, Arif Mardin graduated from Istanbul University
and studied at the London School of Economics. Although he was a
self-professed jazz fanatic, as well as an accomplished orchestrator
and arranger, he never intended to pursue a career in music. It
was a chance meeting with jazz great Dizzy Gillespie that proved
to be the stroke of fate. "Dizzy came through Turkey in 1956,
and it was the biggest event of my life," recalled Mardin.
"I had the chance to meet him, and he wound up playing one
of my pieces and giving me some pointers." Two years later
in 1958, he became the first recipient of the Quincy Jones Scholarship
at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. After graduation, he
taught at Berklee for a year. He was eventually made a trustee of
the school and awarded an honorary doctorate.
Mardin joined Atlantic Records in 1963 as an assistant to Nesuhi
Ertegun. He was soon named studio manager and subsequently became
the label's house producer and arranger. In 1969, he was named a
Vice President of the company and later served as Senior Vice President.
In 1967 Jerry Wexler employed him to arrange sessions for Aretha
Franklin, from which came 'I Never Loved A Man' and 'Do Right Woman'.
Mardin continued to produce and arrange songs for Franklin across
the 1970s. Wexler then enlisted Mardin to arrange the strings for
Dusty Springfield's classic 'Dusty In Memphis' LP. In 1969 he released
the first of two solo albums, 'Glass Onion', whose relaxed jazz
flavours found British popularity in 1996 when the song 'How Can
I Be Sure?' became a UK lounge hit in clubs. In 1974 Mardin was
paired with a struggling Scottish soul group, the Average White
Band. His production emphasised their bright brass and dynamic rhythms,
taking them to the top of the US album and singles charts.
Mardin enjoyed a relationship with Atlantic that allowed him to
produce albums for other record labels as well. His collaborations
with the Bee Gees led to the smash hit 'Jive Talkin''. His chart
toppers also included 'Against All Odds' and 'Separate Lives' (a
duet with Marilyn Martin) by Phil Collins, 'I Feel For You' by Chaka
Khan and the Grammy winning 'Wind Beneath My Wings' by Bette Midler.
In 1990, Mardin was inducted into the National Academy of Recording
Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. In 1994, in celebration of his 30th
Anniversary with Atlantic Records, he was the subject of a special
tribute issue in Billboard magazine. In 1996, he earned his sixth
Grammy Award for his production of the original Broadway cast album
of 'Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs Of Leiber And Stoller'. The following
year, he received a Grammy nomination for the original Broadway
cast recording of 'Rent'. In 1997 he was one of the recipients of
the NARAS Heroes Award, presented by Ahmet Ertegun.
That year was a very busy one, which included producing the music
for 'Cinderella', the ABC TV special starring Whitney Houston and
Brandy, and songs on Patti LaBelle's 'Flame' and Regina Carter's
'Something For Grace' LPs. He received a Grammy nomination for the
song 'Laura' by Carly Simon and produced four songs on Barbra Streisand's
album 'Higher Ground'. "Barbra, Bette, Carly, Patti and Whitney
made 1997 my 'Year of the Diva'," he mused. Later he served
as music producer for 'Why Do Fools Fall In Love', the Frankie Lymon
biopic, and produced tracks on Bette Midler's 'Bathhouse Betty',
Diana Ross' 'Everyday Is A New Day', Barbra Streisand's 'A Love
Like Ours' and Patti LaBelle's live 'One Nite Only' albums. Appropriately,
Mardin closed the decade with another glimmering diva, Jewel.
He opened the next millenium with orchestral arrangements for Eric
Clapton and B.B. King. In 2001 he signed with Manhattan/EMI to produce
new artists with adult appeal. Norah Jones had disagreed with the
initial producer of her debut, so Mardin was brought in to finish
her LP 'Come Away With Me', which, when released in early 2002,
went on to sell 18m copies. Mardin won four Grammy awards for the
album, including best producer. He also produced Jones' 2004 follow-up
album, 'Feels Like Home'.
Mardin is survived by his wife of 48 years Latife, a son and two
from an article at http://www.lightmillennium.org)