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Music Producer Arif Mardin


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Legendary Music Producer Arif Mardin

by Chris Morris

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Arif Mardin

NEW YORK, New York -- Music Producer Arif Mardin, whose career stretched from classic productions for Atlantic Records to a late-career triumph with Norah Jones, died Sunday, June 25 in New York after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 74.

During nearly 30 years with Atlantic, Mardin's sleek, jazz-savvy producing and arranging skills were applied to hit recordings by, among others, the Bee Gees, the Average White Band, Bette Midler, Willie Nelson, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway.

Over the years, he collected 11 Grammy Awards, including album of the year, record of the year and producer of the year honors for his work on Jones' debut, "Come Away With Me," in 2003.

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Arif Mardin with Louis Armstrong

Born March 15, 1932, in Istanbul, Turkey, Mardin graduated from Istanbul University and studied at the London School of Economics. A devoted jazz fan, he met trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and arranger Quincy Jones in 1956, and two years later received the first Quincy Jones Scholarship from Boston's Berklee College of Music.

After graduating from Berklee in 1961 and teaching there, Mardin joined Atlantic in 1963 as an assistant to label executive Nesuhi Ertegun, brother of co-founder Ahmet Ertegun and a fellow Turk and jazz devotee. Mardin rose through the company, eventually becoming senior vice president.

Mardin brought his jazz-honed skills to such hit singles as "Pick Up the Pieces" by the Average White Band, "Groovin'" by the Young Rascals, "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins and "Jive Talkin'" by the Bee Gees.

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Hall & Oates with Arif Mardin

He arranged or produced such key Aretha Franklin albums as "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You," "Lady Soul," "Spirit in the Dark" and the live gospel session "Amazing Grace." But he could also shift gears, helming albums by such folk and roots talents as John Prine, Willie Nelson and Doug Sahm.

Mardin also released two instrumental albums in his own name on Atlantic: "Glass Onion" (1970) and "Journey" (1975). Often working outside Atlantic's auspices, Mardin later produced such artists as Rod Stewart, George Benson, Barbra Streisand, Patti LaBelle and Diana Ross .

Over the years, Mardin dabbled in theater and TV productions: He produced the music for Bette Midler's 1992 TV production of "Gypsy" and worked on Whitney Houston 's 1997 remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella." He won a Grammy for his production of the cast album for "Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs of Leiber & Stoller," and received a nomination for the original cast album of "Rent."

Mardin retired from Atlantic in May 2001. Later that year, he became co-vp/general manager at EMI's Manhattan Records. His first production there was Jones' bestselling debut; he also produced albums by singers Melissa Errico and Dianne Reeves.

Mardin is survived by wife, Latife, two children, son Joe and daughter Julie.

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