I’ve been putting off this post for some time. I haven’t been putting it off on purpose per se, I just haven’t found the right time to write it. We’ll my father’s birthday being yesterday is pretty good if you ask me.
My father is a musician by trade. It has made for an interesting way to be raised. While most dads went to work in suits, ties, or some kind of uniform, my father would be leaving our apartment when my sister and I would be getting home from school wearing whatever he wore (some fashion decisions have been questionable, but that’s him). I always thought that was cool. It kind of shaped my opinion about going to work in a suit and tie is overrated when I got older.
While my father was the musician, it was my mom that really introduced me and why I loved music as a kid. The love of music made me want to be like my dad, though. I wanted to be on stage performing all over the world and spend nights in the studio. Growing up like this was pretty awesome. We’d drive down to DC of Philly to catch a show he’d be playing in. It was part of the adventure my mom would take us on. I’ve been backstage and snuck into more concerts than I’ve paid tickets for.
The music business has a 97% failure rate. While my father isn’t rich, he’s been just being a musician for almost forty years…that would make him a success. He used to direct Isaac Hayes’ birthday bash every year in New York where sitting at rehearsals I’d see all kinds of people come in. He’s written and produced songs for Will Downing, the Force MD’s, Gerald Levert, Melba Moore, The Manhattans and a bunch of others. His current day job is playing for Dennis Edwards and the Temptations. To all of my. DC people: that was him singing the theme song for the Donnie Simpson show.
As much as I wanted to follow in his footsteps he didn’t want that for me at all. He hated the idea. However, he was teaching me a lesson one night driving through Queens that gave me my loophole. He was telling me that if I’m going to be anything, work hard and be the best at it. He said that the best ballplayers spend eight hours a day in the gym during the offseason. He said if I wanted to be a producer that I would have to approach it the same way. I think he was saying that as an example of something that’s was interested in. By I took that as a green light.
He wouldn’t say much, but the more work I showed I was putting into music the more he rewarded me. He wouldn’t give instructions, either. He would just do something and I’d have to figure it out. After figuring it out, I’d have to master it. Then came the next thing. I would buy cassette singles with instrumentals on them. When he saw I had a bunch of those, he gave me his old four track recorded. It was like twenty five years old, but I would fill it up with little productions of raps and songs of mine. Insight grade he showed me a program I could make beats on. I had a good hundred something on there before ninth grade started. He was on tour during the summer I was going into tenth grade and gave me access to his home studio. His hard drive was filled with songs by the time he got back home. He got me my own computer. It only had three gb of memory obit and once burner. The external burner only recorded in real time. So for every song I recorded I had to back it up twice and it would take three hours before I could start on the next one. That effort made him notice and I put out my first album to sell around school when I was in tenth grade. The more I showed I was capable of, the more he would show me. As am adult, I’ve done plenty of things for him (some stuff he’s taken all the credit for but I chalk that up to the game and if it helped pay a bill who s I to say anything). He’ll send me things now to listen to and get my take one mix or an idea or two.
I bring up this story with my father because it is the most valuable lesson I’ve learned. Work. You work hard and master something. Someone will pay attention and seek you out. The more you go above what you’re asked or required to do, the more life will open up doors. I used this same philosophy for everything. It’s why I write so much. It’s what I do as a father. It’s how I tackle just about everything in life.
Thanks for the valuable lesson…I do pay attention.