Creative QuestPosted: August 31, 2020
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
Ecco, April 24, 2018, 261 pages
Kindle edition $12.99, Amazon paperback $14.29
I had never heard of Questlove, aka Ahmir Thompson, until he showed up on the Rachael Ray show one day. Not that I watch Rachel Ray regularly (I wish there was an easy way eliminate all the other goings-on (as they appeared on the show pre-COVID-19) and just watch the cooking segments), but I caught this episode. It turns out that he is the musical director of the Jimmy Fallon incarnation of The Tonight Show, and his musical group Roots is the house band. But you no doubt knew that.
Questlove is also a lover of gourmet cooking and in a pre-COVID19 world he hosted food salons so he could hang out with four- and five-star chefs. He was on Rachael Ray to talk about gourmet holiday potlucks, as I recall.
When I looked him up on Amazon I found this book. Always interested in improving my creativity I bought it. It was a mixed bag for me. I’m not a big fan of hip-hop. Actually, I actively dislike hip-hop. (I never enjoyed the music on Fallon’s version of Tonight the few times that I’ve watched it. Questlove is not Doc Severinsen.) Questlove writes a lot about the creative process in hip-hop and music in general. A music lover I am, but understanding the creative process behind producing music doesn’t interest me in the same way that understanding the creative process in writing does. The author writes about things like ProTools, which, if you are a serious musician, is the ultimate music editing software, or so I understand.
Still, Questlove has some interesting insights into the creative process, and he is candid about his failures in addition to noting his successes. He suggests that in a world of the internet and Google “the brain is more a hunter-gatherer and less a farmer.” He cites William Klemm, of Texas A&M University:
[Klemm] defines creativity as the process of drawing water from a deep well. I’m paraphrasing. He said that “creativity comes from a mind that knows, and remembers, a lot.” We don’t have those brains anymore. Instead, we offload our knowledge to our phones and computers, to Wikipedia, to Shazam. It’s a great convenience, but what’s lost in the process?
Questlove, born in 1971, the year I graduated from high school, ought not be worrying about aging quite yet, but I like the fact that he references Dick Van Dyke, now in his nineties, saying as we age we ought not avoid (for example) using the stairs just because it hurts a little. I’ll remember that the next time I ache getting up off the floor when I’m arranging Tasha’s food on the bottom shelf of the cabinet.
The author writes in a light, breezy style. He has a “with” co-author in Ben Greenman, but I assume that the self-deprecation and dry wit are Questlove’s and not imposed by Greenman.
Not one of my favorite books, but there are some good insights here.