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The Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun Hardcover – November 8, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“Ahmet Ertegun was a man who loved his music and wanted others to hear what may otherwise have gone unheard. . . . We first met when the Stones signed up with Atlantic. The stories began to flow and a lot of them are in these pages. Robert Greenfield has done a masterful job of relating them. . . . I shall miss Ahmet. He was a great man and a great friend!”
—Keith Richards

“Ahmet Ertegun was a man of passion, loyalty, generosity and fun, both sacred and profane, who could target like a laser what was authentic and worthwhile in the many worlds he bestrode so seamlessly and successfully. Greenfield’s fascinating biography, The Last Sultan, gets it right, and I envy readers their opportunity to experience the life and times of this extraordinary man.”
—Henry Kissinger

“Robert Greenfield has written a loving, vividly detailed and utterly compelling history of one of the most fascinating lives of the twentieth century. Not only do you get an insider’s account of the building of the record industry and the high times of the rock and roll circus, but of the worldly education of a young man in the diplomatic world of the European capitals and Washington D.C., and American high society in New York’s modern heyday. The Last Sultan is the remarkable odyssey of a truly remarkable man.”
—Jann Wenner, Editor, Publisher and Founder of Rolling Stone

“In many ways, this book is the Bible of rock ‘n’ roll. A sacred tale rooted in the incredible life journey of my friend Ahmet Ertegun who touched not only me but also so many other people in so many ways.”
—Kid Rock

“I found Robert Greenfield’s book on Bill Graham to be one of the best researched music business biographies ever. Now with The Last Sultan, he's topped himself. Ahmet Ertegun is not an easy subject—he was both indelible and opaque—but Greenfield has dug deeper than anyone ever has, to reveal one of the most complex Americans of the last half century."
—Taylor Hackford, Director/Producer of “Ray”

"An excellent biography of a titan in the music industry."
Booklist (starred review)

"Mesmerizing, entertaining, informative. . . . There are a great many delicious stories in this page-turning work. . . . A vivid portrait of Ertegun but also a colorful panorama of the indie record-business during and after its rough-and-tumble years, when bootleggers sold as many singles as the real labels, gangsters were always angling to squeeze in on the action, and payola was just part of the cost of doing business."
—Tom Nolan, San Francisco Chronicle

About the Author

An award-winning journalist, novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and former associate editor of the London bureau of Rolling Stone, Robert Greenfield is the author of ten books of fiction and nonfiction, among them the classic STP: A Journey Through America With the Rolling Stones, and critically acclaimed biographies of Jerry Garcia, Timothy Leary, and Bill Graham.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416558381
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416558385
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #440,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 52 people found the following review helpful By sbdangerfield on November 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As a professor of music at an ivy league institution, a huge fan of early R+B and soul music and a total Stones freak, I pre-ordered 'The Last Sultan', was up all night reading it and am currently considering making it required reading for my course on popular music.

I have followed Greenfield's writing since his STP: Stones Touring Party book, and fell in love with his oral biography of the great rock promoter Bill Graham from reading 'Bill Graham Presents', which I consider to be the Bible of what used to be known as the music biz. I also enjoyed his bios of Jerry Garcia and Timothy Leary and of course Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones.

I've always appreciated Greenfield's writing because he tells it like it is, and isn't some fanboy poseur impressed by fame or stardom. At the same time, he isn't a muckraker. I'm about 3/4 through 'The Last Sultan' and I think its his most readable book to date, and pleases much like the great pop music which Ahmet Ertegun himself produced.

The stories in this book are utterly priceless. My favorites include a scene in which a large woman wearing a muumu happily greets Ahmet at some social function only to have him respond, 'sorry, but I don't think we've met', to which she responds, 'Well, I'm your ex-wife'. In another scene, an extremely hungover Kid Rock (whom Ahmet refers to as his 'young elvis') comes over to Ahmet's house for lunch and complains that he hasn't slept and is having girl trouble, to which Ahmet responds 'You want a Baby Ruth, man? That'll make you feel better', at which point a butler brings out a silver platter of Baby Ruths and Butterfingers.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By L. A. Wayte on May 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The life of Ahmet Ertegun was truly an amazing one, and this alone makes this book worth reading. But this is not biography at its best. The author often gets caught up in a "this happened, then this happened" sort of chronological storytelling that tends to get stilted. The author too often loses sight of the bigger picture and historical context during some chapters (particularly towards the end of the book), when he lapses into recounting a series of details and events of questionable relevance. Still, if the history of popular music in America holds any interest for you, this is worth reading, and it's not too much of a time investment at 350 pages. But if you're looking for scintillating biographical writing, you may be frustrated by the lack of a compelling narrative arch to the book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By ERHAN CORAL on April 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is a great read especially for those who are into music, and specifically into the golden age... Ahmet had lived a life sufficient to make a genuine Sultan jealous ... I certainly recommend this book, however one thing puzzles me though... despite many artists, colleagues, friends who are rightly mentioned on the book who touched Ahmet along the way, there was no single reference to another legendary Turkish music producer Arif Mardin, although the worked together at Atlantic before Mardin moved to EMI. I wonder if it was some sort of sign of a heartbreak between the two or a simple neglect...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Pirate on February 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a lifelong fan of Atlantic records,I felt I knew a good deal about the company history and the players involved.Mr. Greenfield's book ,focusing on founder Ahmet Ertegun,provided information previously unknown to me,that sheds light on the corporate mentality that had a great bearing on the music of Atlantic Records .A very through book ,relying on original source material,the writing is very very readable and informative,where it could have been dry and textbook like ;if not for the author's ability.Obviously Mr. Greenfield writes with a certain passion ,for the subject and his world, that makes for a very entertaining read.If you have any interest in rock R&B and the early individuals who shaped the business then this book will fill in all the blanks for you as a fan of Atlantic records and the players involved.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gerardo Martinez Casas on December 26, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
but there has to be more. Of course there is more, but where is it? Good overview of the music industry and it's doings... Worth the read. Also, you can read the interview in The New Yorker in Profiles: Eclectic, Reminiscent, Amused, Fickle, Perverse by George W. S. Trow. After you read it and you want "more", get the book, otherwise, good ridance and do get Keith Richards Life.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A brilliantly written book about the life of Atlantic Records Founder and Cool Cat CEO Ahmet Ertegun. You'll have a front row seat to the life and times of an amazing man. Ertegun breaks free of his silver spoon young Turk life as a diplomats son and ventures at a tender age into the jazz clubs of Harlem where the sounds of Duke Ellington and the legends of jazz rock his soul to the core. The boy follows his heart into creating the swingingest coolest and hippest record label of all time. Erteguns label becomes the most important jazz, soul and R&B label by it's founders keen instinct for curating the "cool." The Clovers, Wilson Pickett, Joe Morris, Dizzy Gillespie, Big Joe Turner, Otis Redding, Sarah Vaughn, Ray Charles-the list goes on and on. Ahmet was even part of the shout chorus on "Shake, Rattle & Roll"-one of the most important songs and pivot points in modern music history. Ertegun then segues into the rock n roll era with equal dexterity as he navigated the jazz/R&B curcuit. Bobby Darin, Leiber & Stoller, The Rascals, Aretha Franklin. There are so many successes and Etegun's partners Jerry Wexler, brother Neshui and Producer Tom Dowd all contribute mightily to this amazing run. Incredible stories, like the hits he creates just keep on coming in this fantastic and wonderfully written and researched story. Details of the life of this amazing man give the story a richness and depth that makes for an incredibly satisfying read. Then, from Zeppelin and the Stones into the Album Rock era, disco and modern times, the book is a brilliant potrait of a man equally at home with high society, diplomats and the upper crust of society as he was in the ghettos and back alleys of early R&B and the dangerous dirty south where few "respectable folks" dared to tread.Read more ›
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