Remembering Arif Mardin


Thirteen years ago, the music world lost one of its greatest behind-the-scenes masterminds. The American Turkish Society commemorates Arif Mardin, (1932–2006) world-renowned producer/arranger and long-standing vice chairman of The Society.

Arif Mardin, born in 1932 in Istanbul, Turkey, was a world-famous music producer. Mardin studied at Istanbul University and the London School of Economics while pursuing music as a hobby, as he was interested in jazz since the age of 15. He later was inspired to take up music as a profession after meeting jazz trumpet player, Dizzy Gillespie. Mardin went on to be the first recipient to receive the Quincy Jones Scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music. In 1961, Mardin graduated from the music school and remained there to teach for two years before he began his career at Atlantic Records in 1963. He began as an assistant to Nesuhi Ertegün, the brother of Ahmet Ertegün, Atlantic's co-founder. He worked closely on many projects with the company’s co-founder Ahmet Ertegun and producer Jerry Wexler. He quickly moved up the ranks and in 1969, he became vice president of Atlantic Records. Mardin's talent benefited numerous artists in a variety of genres such as Aretha Franklin, the Bee Gees, Chaka Khan, Roberta Flack, Hall & Oates, Jewel, Patti Labelle, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Ringo Starr, and Barbra Streisand, among others. In 1990, Arif Mardin was inducted into the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.

 

 

Arif Mardin retired from Atlantic Records in May 2001 and re-activated his label, Manhattan/EMI Records, from which he received great acclaim for his work with Norah Jones. During his 40-year career, Mardin collected over 40 gold and platinum albums, 15 Grammy nominations and 12 Grammy Awards. In a 2005 NPR interview, Mardin was asked for a piece of wisdom he would pass onto future producers. He responded with “I think, [you know], the most important thing is the song----no matter what kind of technology is used, all the machinery, all the computers, you still rely on a great song”. 

 

 

Arif Mardin’s contribution to The Society as vice chairman and active member of the Cultural Expansion Committee spans over 20 years. He was instrumental in creating the committee and enhancing the cultural programs of ATS. In that respect, Mardin was the recipient of the “Award of Excellence” at an event hosted by ATS and Alem Magazine at the Tavern on the Green in December 2003.
 
“Arif Mardin has been one of the most prolific board members of The American Turkish Society and a great friend. We are deeply grateful for his service,” remarked Ahmet Ertegun, Founder of Atlantic Records and former Chairman of The Society.
 
 
 
 
 
Launched in 2007, The American Turkish Society is pleased to honor Arif Mardin’s name under the ‘Arif Mardin Fellowship at Berklee College of Music, which is one of ATS’s key scholarship programs. The program is conducted in partnership with Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, where Mardin's successful music career began as the first recipient of the Quincy Jones Scholarship. Each year, The Arif Mardin Fellowship allows one student of Turkish descent or nationality to attend the 5-week Summer Performance Program at the Berklee College of Music. The program aims to develop the performance skills of musicians. Students play in ensembles, develop improvisational and reading skills, improve their technique in weekly private lessons, enjoy lectures/demonstrations by well-known faculty and visiting artists, and are exposed to the latest innovations in music technology. The program emphasizes the mastery of playing or singing skills in your chosen style of contemporary music: Jazz, Pop/Rock, Funk/Fusion, or Pop/R&B.
 
Help us to continue to honor Arif Mardin by supporting the Arif Mardin Fellowship at Berklee College of Music. The Society depends on your support. Click here to make a donation or become a member and gain access to a series of benefits!