While the Rock Hall team was in New York for the 25th Anniversary Concerts, a celebration of the late Jerry Wexler’s life and his legacy was held at the Director’s Guild. This tribute was a lively event meant to rejoice in all of the music that Hall of Fame Inductee Jerry was responsible for or had touched in his inimitable way.
Jerry’s daughter and son, Lisa and Paul, got it started with a few words about their Dad. Both discussed how much he meant to each of them and what a powerful influence he had been on their lives as well as so many others in the music industry.
The program was divided into two parts: first, speakers who gave personal remembrances; and second, a group of performers doing renditions of songs that Jerry produced and/or loved…..or both.
Many of the speakers gave testimony as to what Jerry had meant to their lives. Several talked of his being a “rabbi” of sorts. David Ritz, who co-authored Jerry’s autobiography and is the dean of musical biographers, even provided the audience with some very specific legal advice that Jerry had proffered in response to one of David’s problems. It was hilarious and unrepeatable.
As for the performances, they ran the gamut from heartfelt to riveting. They included a terrific set by Jerry’s daughter, Lisa with her long running band, Big Sister. Lenny Kaye, my old college chum and Hall of Fame Inductee Patti Smith’s guitarist, assisted them.
Other highlights included a song by Joe South, whom few had seen in almost 30 years. It was truly a special moment. William Bell brought it all back to Stax with “You Don’t Miss Your Water” and was outstanding as always. Bettye Lavette followed with a stirring version of “Drown in My Own Tears.” She also told the audience that Jerry Wexler was the only person in the record industry that ever helped her. This statement came with a profound explanation and commentary on her remarkable journey in the biz to where she is today. Bettye is a featured performer in our American Music Masters event this year honoring Janis Joplin. Her fabulous contribution just made me more anxious for the AMM week to begin.
Next, Lou Ann Barton did the song Jerry first heard her perform which she later recorded with him. It’s one of my all time favorites, “It’s Raining”, a classic from Irma Thomas.
All in all, it was a fitting celebration of someone who truly changed the landscape of musical history and world culture. I was proud and honored to be there.
Jerry Wexler was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer in 1987.