It’s safe to say that Atlantic was one of the pioneering independent labels in its heyday. The label upheld a standard of quality and consistency at a time when there was no formula for a hit record and no certainty of what direction popular music was going to take. It was Atlantic’s ability to keep up with the rate of change that made them such staple in the formative years of Soul and Rock and Roll.
Atlantic was founded in 1947 by Herb Abramson and Ahmet Ertegun. Abramson left the label in the mid 50s and a team including Ertegun, Tom Dowd (Producer), Jerry Wexler (VP) and Nesuhi Ertegun (head of Jazz division) became the driving force behind the label’s classic recordings.
A successful string of bar-raising R&B, Soul and Jazz releases in the 50s and 60s solidified the label’s reputation.
Ray Charles “I Got A Woman”
Aretha Franklin “I Never Loved A Man”
In 1961, Stax signed a licensing deal with Atlantic that helped bring that label’s Memphis Soul into the national spotlight.
Wilson Pickett “In the Midnight Hour”
By 1967, many of the early independent labels that rose alongside Atlantic were disintegrating due to pressure from the Majors. Atlantic was sold to Warner Brothers for a regrettably cut rate to alleviate this concern. With this, a new era began. Atlantic signed Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Velvet Underground and other Rock bands and began to focus increasingly on Rock music for the remainder of the label’s most influential years.
Cream “Strange Brew”
The label is still around and continues to operate under the Warner Music Group umbrella.
– Submitted by Justin Main, Music Design