(news.yahoo.com) - Ahmet Ertegun, who helped define American music as the founder of Atlantic Records, a label that popularized the gritty R&B of Ray Charles, the classic soul of Aretha Franklin and the British rock of the Rolling Stones, died Thursday at 83, his spokesman said.
Ertegun remained connected to the music scene until his last days it was at an Oct. 29 concert by the Rolling Stones at the Beacon Theatre in New York where Ertegun fell, suffered a head injury and was hospitalized. He later slipped into a coma.
"He was in a coma and expired today with his family at his bedside," said Dr. Howard A. Riina, Ertegun's neurosurgeon at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Ertegun will be buried in a private ceremony in his native Turkey, said Bob Kaus, a spokesman for Ertegun and Atlantic Records. A memorial service will be conducted in New York after New Year's.
Ertegun, a Turkish ambassador's son, started collecting records for fun, but would later became one of the music industry's most powerful figures with Atlantic, which he founded in 1947.
The label first made its name with rhythm and blues by Charles and Big Joe Turner, but later diversified, making Franklin the Queen of Soul as well as carrying the banner of British rock (with the Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin) and American pop (with Sonny and Cher, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and others).
Today, the company, part of Warner Music Group, is the home to artists including Kid Rock, James Blunt, T.I., and Missy Elliott.
"Ahmet Ertegun was a true visionary whose life's work had a profound impact on our cultures musical landscape, as well as around the world," said Neil Portnow, president of The Recording Academy.
Ertegun's love of music began with jazz, back when he and his late brother Nesuhi (an esteemed producer of such jazz acts as Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman) used to hang around with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington in the clubs of Washington, D.C.
"My father was a diplomat who was ambassador to Switzerland, France and England before he became ambassador to the United States, and we lived in all those countries and we always had music in the house, and a lot of it was a kind of popular music, and we heard a lot of jazz," Ertegun recalled in an interview with The Associated Press. "By the time we came to Washington, we were collecting records and we amassed a collection of some 25,000 blues and jazz records."
Ertegun parlayed his love of music into a career when he founded Atlantic with partner Herb Abramson and a $10,000 loan. When the label first started, it made its name with blues-edged recordings by acts such as Ruth Brown.
Despite his privileged background, which included attending prep school and socializing with Washington's elite, Ertegun was able to mix with all kinds of people an attribute that made him not just a marketer of black music, but a part of it, said Jerry Wexler.
"The transition between these two worlds is one of Ahmet's most distinguishing characteristics," Wexler said.
Black music was the backbone of the label for years it was Atlantic, under Wexler's production genius, that helped make Franklin the top black female singer of her day.