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

4.4 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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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.

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 (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #396,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've always been drawn to businessmen that have come from rather humble beginnings to being the best of the best. How did they get there? What was the tipping point in their careers? The Last Sultan, his real name Ahmet Ertegun, grew up the son of a high-ranking Turkish diplomat, would end up changing the record business forever through his record label Atlantic Records.

When he first moved to the US he used to sneak out and listen to black-roots music in the local clubs when no white record exec would dare do so. He ended up falling in love with this music and would later start a record label to bring it to the masses. Over the next five decades as different genres faded and others took shape, Ahmet was usually the visionary leading the charge. He signed some of the biggest music legends in history including: Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles, Bobby Darin, Sonny and Cher, Nash & Young, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Bette Midler, and Kid Rock.
The most interesting theme of the book were the comments artists had about Ahmet Ertegun. Even early on in his career before he was a legend, artists had a deep respect for Ahmet's innate ability to hear, modify, and help create #1 records. Because of Ahmet's active social lifestyle, he found it very easy to connect with artists on multiple levels. Both the The Rolling Stones and Kid Rock were amazed that Ahmet could out drink and out socialize even them, not get any sleep, and be alert, well dressed, and well versed for a business meeting hours later. And Ahmet was always the best-dressed person in the room.

Ahmet Ertegun's life was one part music visionary, one part businessman, and two parts the show "Mad Men". And this is exactly why several major tv networks have tried to produce a series around Ahmet's life.
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Format: Hardcover
If you're interested in music at all, this book is for you. Fascinating from start to finish with only one minor derivation (the New York Cosmos stuff - I wanted to get back to the music!), a man I only learned about when he died had one of the most interesting lives ever. What is doubly great about the book is how it's written. It's a great story, but the author knows how to balance the minutiae with the namedropping and it makes for an extremely well-rounded book.

You will learn about Ertegun's father's role in fighting what he saw as a potentially anti-Turkish film being made in Hollywood in his position as Turkish ambassador to the U.S. Then you will read about a party Ertegun threw for the Rolling Stones in New Orleans featuring Professor Longhair that you wish you could've attended with every fiber in your being. It's a great portrait of a man and the times he lived in. I could not put this book down.

Even better, if you are on Spotify, I was able to find much of the Atlantic catalog there including a complete set of recordings from Ray Charles. So, as soon as you get from one chapter to the next, giving you the thirst for whoever next Ertegun was recording, you can listen to the tunes with a few exceptions (Led Zeppelin). Loved, loved, loved this book.
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