Jerry Wexler, a music industry giant who coined the term "rhythm and blues" and worked to bring black popular music into the mainstream, died today at age 91, the New York Times reports. Wexler, a producer at Atlantic Records in its heyday, worked with new artists such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Wilson Pickett. Unusual for the time, he gave the artists great control in the studio, allowing them to forge singular sounds.
Wexler started in the music biz as a reporter for Billboard, where he suggested the term “race records” be changed to rhythm and blues. He moved on to Atlantic in the 1950s, where “he played a major role in bringing black music to the masses, and in the evolution of rhythm and blues to soul music,” said the chief curator for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Read more music stories.)