Rhino Factoids: Ahmet Ertegun at the Berklee College of Music

Thursday, May 4, 2017
Rhino Factoids: Ahmet Ertegun at the Berklee College of Music

26 years ago today, the Berklee College of Music doled out a handful of honorary degrees, and if you’re a regular Rhino.com visitor, then you’ll recognize that most of the recipients were folks with a connection to this here label.

Phil Collins? Check. Al Jarreau? Check. Joe Zawinul? Check, but since he’s not as immediately recognizable a name to the average, uh, Joe, we’ll fill you in: dude’s a jazz legend, and he worked with Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis and co-founded Weather Report and the Zawinul Syndicate.

Almost as impressive was the fact that the commencement speech for the class of ’91 was delivered by one of the most beloved figures in record label history: Ahmet Ertegun, the man behind Atlantic Records. You can read the speech in its entirety by clicking right here, but here are a few highlights from his remarks:

“In the dialogues of Plato, a main thesis was that a human being's greatest goal is happiness. And that happiness is many things. Its highest state is when a person gains understanding of truth that is the discovery of knowledge. It is also attained when one can create an object of beauty that is an imitation or interpretation of nature—an object of fine art, whether it be a painting, a literary work, or fine piece of music. The state of happiness is also attained by leading a morally and ethically good life. That is by developing a set of habits which makes you choose right instead of wrong almost automatically. That is what makes you a good person, which is even more important than being a successful one.” “There are people that love nothing passionately. They get into whatever makes them the most money. And they get to love it for the sake of that goal. There are those who have to take whatever opportunity they get just for survival. The person who loves the theater but works as a clerk has a very different quality of life than a person who loves literature and teaches it at a university or is a book editor or literary critic. So if you do have a love, try to pursue that. Because then, work is no longer work. But it is what you enjoy doing the most. Your goal does not have to be grand or grandiose. But it has to be something that you dedicate yourself to.” “There is true happiness in achievement in any field that you undertake. And you look forward to be able to work. And no hours are too long. No problem too complicated. And there is nothing you would rather do. That is ideal. It is not always possible. But it is what you should strive for.” “Since I started Atlantic 44 years ago, music has gone through a series of incredible changes. Styles have come and gone, merged and evolved, become transfigured and transformed. Today we can talk of an endless variety of musical forms, from rap to alternative, from house to metal, fusion to new age, from pure pop to jazz purism. But the true bottom line is, and will always be, talent and excellence regardless of category. Whatever you decide to do, the important thing is to do it well. You can't always find the job or opportunity you may most desire, but whatever job you do get, do it well. And it will lead to other opportunities.” “For those of you who succeed, whether sooner or later, please remember that the greatest attribute of a winner is humility. You all must have great pride in whatever it is you may achieve. But you also must never lose sight of where you came from. You must retain a humble outlook toward the world around you as you face the new challenges that await you.”

Seriously, is it anyone wonder why the man was so beloved?