On Sunday, June 25, 2006, the world lost one of its greatest record producers and arrangers, Arif Mardin, who died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 74. Mardin was responsible for countless hit records spanning four decades.
Mardin came to the United States from Turkey in 1958 to attend the Berklee College of Music as the recipient of the first Quincy Jones Scholarship. In 1963 he began a relationship with Atlantic Records that lasted until his retirement in 2000. At first, he worked as an arranger with producers Tom Dowd and Jerry Wexler, then as a producer and senior vice president of Atlantic Records. Artists he produced include Chaka Khan, the Bee Gees, the Rascals, Bette Midler, Hall and Oates, Aretha Franklin, Jewel, Judy Collins, Roberta Flack, Phil Collins, and the Average White Band.
I was privileged to work with Arif Mardin for 16 years as an arranger-programmer and, on occasion, coproducer. He was gracious, professional, and always inspiring, and he was able to bring out the best in everyone, from assistant engineers to stars. He also had an uncanny ability to come up with that one special color or sound that made each record unique.
To Mardin, the artist's voice always came first. As a young man, he heard one of his Aretha Franklin records coming from a transistor radio down in a manhole, and he was delighted that Franklin's voice came through clearly on the noisy street. He wanted all of his records to have that effect.
Mardin was working on an album of his own material at the time of his death. The album is almost done and will be completed by his son Joe Mardin, who coproduced. He is survived by his wife Latife, son Joe, and daughters Julie Joffre and Nazan Joffre.