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5 Lessons From One Of The Music Biz’s Most Successful College Dropouts

“He gave up the game. A lot of people do these things, but they don’t tell you how they do these things.”

Jimmy Iovine is one of the biggest names in the music business. The Brooklyn native went from being a restless teen who dropped out of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at 19 to a powerhouse producer who worked with icons like John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and U2 before founding Interscope Records with Ted Field in 1990. Iovine’s improbable rise through the ranks was a result of his superhuman work ethic (he used to abhor time off) and his willingness to continue to learn from others.

The 64-year-old’s storied life is chronicled in HBO’s four-part documentary, “The Defiant Ones,” which profiles the Apple music executive alongside his good friend and longtime collaborator, Dr. Dre. The two teamed up in the 1990s when Dre co-founded Death Row Records and later partnered on a number of ventures, including Beats Electronics, which was acquired by Apple in 2014 for a record $3 billion.


[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]He gave up the game. A lot of people do these things, but they don’t tell you how they do these things.[/quote]

Recently, Iovine and “The Defiant Ones” executive producer and director Allen Hughes hosted an intimate dinner in Los Angeles to talk about their renowned careers and the documentary, which was just nominated for a Grammy Award. That night, Hughes said Iovine “gave up the game” and shared a wealth of information during the documentary.

Thankfully, for those of us around the table that evening, he dropped even more jewels of wisdom. Here are just a few, in Iovine’s own words.

1. You need people.

I was very fortunate to have a friend in David Geffen. As far as business is concerned, he was an extraordinary — the word “mentor” is used too much, but I call him a friend because he still is. But I didn’t know that I could [go into business] until I saw him doing it.

I find people that I connect with. I’m Italian — I was brought up Catholic in Brooklyn, but I found a rabbi — that’s who I connected with. I was 52. It changed my life. I was looking for somebody to help get some answers.

So if I meet somebody like Steve Jobs, I want to know why they do what they do, and then [I] become of service. I learned that from day one in the studio. I said, “I don’t know what I’m doing, so I’m going to make myself as useful as possible and watch all these great people.” I still do that.

2. Understand the “why.”

If the other person doesn’t understand the “why” it falls apart. That’s the biggest question in our life: Why am I doing this?

I do it because I need it, so I assume everyone needs it. To make it simple: When an engineer gets with someone in the content business, they each have to know why the other person does what they do, not just the “what.” The artist has to understand that the engineer is just as much of an artist as he is and [vice versa].

You have to understand the “ why” — that’s what we teach at the [Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy at USC], the “why.” You have to understand both languages or it’s going to be a mess.

3. Stay open to the unexpected.

Years ago, my assistant was on a honeymoon and they bring in this literal kid, who’s 18 years old — and it was his first or second day filling in as a temp — and he says to me, “Hey Jimmy, I saw this white guy rap last night at a rap battle. It was incredible.”

And I don’t know, I just heard from people that you can’t be white and rap, but I remembered guys giving me help when I was 18, [so] I said, “Get the tape and I’ll give it to Dre.”

Now, did I think Eminem would earn a billion dollars for Universal? No. That’s probably the most unexpected thing that happened in my life.

4. Commit to a decision and work your ass off.

I firmly believe in making a decision and then making the decision work. That’s kinda what people consider luck, if there is such a thing. Make a decision and just go for.

But don’t be stupid. If a thing doesn’t work 20 times, it might be a bad idea. But give it a full shot. Whatever decision you make will be the right one if you have the attitude that it will work. That’s how I do it.

5. Don’t let your career become your identity.

David Geffen drilled this into my head: Never let your job become who you are. I was consumed by being successful, but it was never who I was. I left Interscope, and I could pivot, because I didn’t give a fuck, it has nothing to do with who I am.

I love Interscope, but I was like that as a record producer; I’m like that with anything. You just don’t have it identify you — that’s such a drag. Some of my friends can’t let go because it’s who they are and, to me, that’s no fun. You work your ass off all these years, and then you’re trapped. That sucks.

I will not be trapped, I hate it more than anything. I’m fucking Houdini; I can get out of any trap. As soon as I feel trapped, I move on to something else.

I’m not braver than anybody, I’m just saying I can’t take it.

Education
via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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Culture
via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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Politics
via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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The Planet