There are people that exist in this world that are so inspiring it is overwhelming. You hear them tell their stories and you feel like you’ve downed ten cups of coffee and are ready to take over the world. These special humans, these ‘think outside of the box’ type of people, these ‘didn’t fit the mold so they made their own’ type of people, these visionaries, they leave a lasting impression. Three people in one week suggested I watch The Defiant Ones on HBO. I agreed, made a mental note, and kept it moving. I knew we couldn’t afford any extra anything, especially not channels. But my dear sweet boyfriend was looking for a movie one day on Amazon and “accidentally” signed us up for a subscription. I immediately cancelled it but it was still good for a month. So we decided to finally watch the documentary, and I’m so glad we did.
We watched all four parts straight through. I felt like I was meant to see this. I related so much to the darkness and solitude that Dr. Dre described, and to the relentless drive and belief in his purpose. It truly resonated with me when Jimmy Iovine spoke about having a feeling that certain songs or combinations of people in a room would be great. Since getting sober, I’ve learned to trust my gut on things. I get feelings when it comes to songs, and many times, places and people. I’ve had a couple of times over the last few years that I have told my better half, “I need to be in that room and I can’t even tell you why.” Every one of those times, I left with a contact I needed, heard something that resonated, or gained valuable information that fits this giant puzzle. I am extremely persistent when I feel something creatively or collaboration wise, and sometimes that is misconstrued, but it is what it is. The people that need to get it, the people meant to be on this journey with me, they get it. It is absolutely an indescribable feeling when you cross paths with likeminded individuals that get you. Not every room we walk into will that happen, but when it does, fireworks go off. Two creative souls that mesh well are unstoppable in pursuit of their dreams and goals.
Dr. Dre and Iovine’s deal between Beats and Apple was a three billion dollar deal. Three billion. Genius sprung from a ten minute conversation between the two. I wanted to know more. Their thought processes are proof that anything a person thinks up can happen with follow through. I wanted to jump through the damn screen and high five both of them. It was phenomenal to watch their backstories. What I loved was that it told the why and how instead of the what. It explained how they felt and why they created. It showed why they struggled and how they turned that into success. I looked at my boyfriend and said, “I have got to get in the same room with those men, I feel like I’m meant to.” About a week later, an ad popped up while I was checking my email. It was advertising that part one of the documentary would be shown at the Grammy Museum, followed by question and answer with Jimmy Iovine and director Alan Hughes. It felt like God, once again, aligned everything at that very moment with his master plan.
Fast forward to this past Monday, January 8, 2018.
I gripped the letter I had typed out a week prior. My other half had gotten caught up miles out driving Lyft, and he was an hour late to pick me up. I was sure by the time I got there that I would get the last sad seat in the back, or miss it all entirely. But when I arrived at the museum, I was pleasantly surprised to see that although there was a line, it didn’t seem too bad. Me, my letter, and my pink converse took our place at the very back of the line. For some weird reason, half of the first row was still left open. When I go to panels, when I listen to people speak, I like to be close enough to make eye contact. Mission accomplished. And my second viewing of part one of the documentary was just as magical as the first. I fell in love with their stories all over again. You could feel the anticipation rising in the room for special guests.
I sat my letter in my lap as they walked onto the stage. I wanted to be ready to hand Mr. Iovine my letter the moment I saw an appropriate time. Both Mr. Hughes and Mr. Iovine seemed to speak directly to my soul. They were so down to earth, so passionate, so real. It was an amazing feeling not to be disappointed by their character in person. Hughes has directed a number of films, including Menace II Society and Dead Presidents. Iovine has worked with everyone, from John Lennon to TuPac. You don’t expect people with that many years in the industry and those types of resumes to have both feet deeply rooted in the ground.
They were hilarious and their chemistry made it evident how long they had known each other. Jimmy was quiet until a few people in the crowd asked questions. Then he said, “You put a quarter in.” I loved it. Anyone getting pumped up and speaking on something they love is beautiful to watch. That passion is clear as their whole face lights up. He shared about how him and Dr. Dre did not want this to turn into a bar mitzvah video. Hughes had wanted to do a documentary on Dr. Dre, and there had already been an idea presented to Iovine to do an Interscope doc that he had turned down. But when Iovine heard that Dre had said yes, he agreed. He said if his friend that never speaks had agreed to, he didn’t want to stand in the way of him doing that. I also loved that both Dre and Iovine gave Hughes permission to interview anyone he wanted, exes and all. They didn’t care if their interviews were positive or negative, just that they were interesting. Iovine said, “Dr. Dre and myself both have a very short fuse for boring.”
Hughes threw his head back into a laugh that felt like you knew him as he commented to the crowd, “See what I have to deal with?!”
I could have listened to their stories for way longer than the event went on. What really stuck with me was one sentence Iovine kept repeating, “It’s not about you.” He said he has given that speech to over 500 producers over the years and that maybe two really got it. He explained that if you are a producer, manager, or engineer, you are providing a service to the artist. It takes a fine balance of working together to help the artist create a vision and a piece of art. I would agree and also tell the same to artists. It is never about one person, but the combined forces and the song. And he repeated this over and over. “You are of service, it’s not about you.” It was derived from a funny story about how Bruce Springsteen took three weeks on one drum sound, and how Iovine let his ego get the best of him and had walked out. Springsteen’s manager told the young Iovine, “It’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s about the song and his vision.”
Iovine agreed to finish the project and said it was one of the defining lessons of his life. The song went on to be a part of Springsteen’s third and breakthrough album, and to hit number three on the Billboard charts. In a world where people get lost in egos, chart numbers, plaques, etc., it was really refreshing to hear someone speak and truly be humble. He also shared in a closing statement that he didn’t know where the next chapter of his life would take him, but that he knows it will involve the future of streaming. With all the amazing songs and sounds he helped to facilitate, I wish he’d produce for another forty years. But hey, it’s not about me, it’s about him.
As soon as they were done speaking, they were rushed off the stage. I followed as quickly as I could, but the door shut behind them and a crew of people and was labeled museum staff only. I went for it. I slid my letter in an envelope under the door. Shortly after, a crowd of people were being escorted out of the room as a woman yelled, “It was a nice try.” I couldn’t tell if she worked there and was addressing me, or if she was an attendee who had snuck in and was being bounced. She was holding something in her hand that looked like my letter, although I truly hope it wasn’t. I don’t see what harm it would have done anyone to hand it to him. Either way, I absolutely loved The Defiant Ones and consider myself very blessed to have sat in a room and listened to both Alan Hughes and Jimmy Iovine share pieces of their journeys. It was nothing short of magical.