Well, today's good feelings sure didn't last long, with the news that the great Jerry Wexler has passed away at age 91. Having produced records for everyone from the Queen of Soul on down, he's in pretty much every pantheon of music history worth mentioning.
I had a few occasions to speak with Wexler over the years, and he was always a perfect gentleman -- gracious with sharing his time and his memories. And he's responsible for my one claim to fame as a journalist: I was the person who got to tell Wexler that Ray Charles had died in 2004. I had his phone number in my files from an earlier story; so when Charles died, I called him for a quote. I figured I would have been at least the 10th person to ring Wexler up by then, but I was the first to get to him. He needed a minute to collect himself before talking.
"I'm very sad but not surprised," he said. "It's been day to day for many months now."
Fortunately, the last time I spoke to Wexler was a less morbid occasion -- this past January, talking about the great soul man Solomon Burke. He had plenty of interesting things to say about Burke, including a funny story about Burke leaving a New York City recording session to go drive a snowplow back home in Philadelphia. As we were ringing off, I asked Wexler how he was doing.
"Terrible," he said cheerfully. "But what do you expect? I just turned 91 years old!"
So long and farewell, sir. You were a class act from start to finish.
ADDENDUM (11/2/09): Bettye LaVette at Wexler memorial.