Questlove Talks The Roots Of His Success w/ CBS Sunday Morning
Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson traveled back to the City of Brotherly Love to revisit the roots of his success with correspondent Anthony Mason for CBS Sunday Morning. The treck, which aired this past weekend, chronicled Thompson's rise from his beginnings in West Philadelphia to his perch on the bandstand at 30 Rock as the leader of the house band for The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. Questo talked with Mason about his approach to music, which began with hearing arrangements differently and absorbing copious amounts of Soul Train, to touring with his father's doo-wop band Lee Andrews & The Hearts and eventually joining forces with Tariq Trotter bka Black Thought at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, where they would go on to co-found The Roots. The chat, which delved into the "golden" period of success that has marked Questlove's career as of late, also dug up some old ghosts during a visit to his childhood home. Questlove elaborates about those feelings, The Roots' career moves and much more in an accompanying article from CBS News:
As drummer for the influential hip hop group, The Roots, Questlove has always heard music differently.
He could, he told Mason, always sort of hear the beats between the beats.
Even when he was a child, his parents saw it: "They would notice that I wouldn't sing the melody or what's up front. I would sing something that was buried way, way in the back."
"Why did you notice that?"
"That's a question I'm still trying to wrestle with. Because my manager says, 'You can't write a straight pop song!'"
But five years ago, when Jimmy Fallon wanted a house band for his new late-night show, he offered the job to Questlove and The Roots.
Fallon recalled, "I said, 'Look, here's the deal. You'll be the best band ever in the history of late night, ever. Because you can play with Tony Bennett, AND you can play with Jay -Z. No one does that.'"
After years of touring, The Roots just wanted a steady gig.
"We saw Fallon as sort of, 'Okay, well, we're gonna retire and, you know, ride off into the sunset.' And suddenly this has done wonders."
It has changed everything for 43-year-old Questlove, the stage name of Ahmir Thompson, who Rolling Stone has called "America's band leader," and Time magazine recently anointed the "Coolest Person of the Year."
"This is probably the most golden year of any year that I have ever had," Questlove said.
He followed Fallon to "The Tonight Show" . . . has become one of the most sought-after DJs in the country . . . and when Elvis Costello made a new album, he asked Questlove to co-produce.
"We kind of had the same path," Costello said. "I think when you grow up around music when you are a kid, you see the magic of it -- and you see the mundane workaday aspect of it. It is a job, and it puts the work ethic in you. So that's really I think something we share."
Ahmir Thompson grew up in West Philadelphia. By age 10 he was touring with his father's doo wop band, Lee Andrews & the Hearts.
"He taught me how to do wardrobe, how to cut light gels, operate the spotlight" Questlove said. "And I woudl do this in a nightclub."
One day the drummer broke his arm. "And then that's when I did my first show," Questlove said. "And that was at Radio City Music Hall."
He was all of 12 years old. "Yeah, 12!" he laughed.
Mason went with Thompson back to his old West Philly neighborhood. "That used to be a record store that I used to get my 45s at!"
But when they pulled up to his old house, he hesitated.
"Oh boy," Questlove said. "YEah, believe it or not, it is kind of hard for me."
"Why is it hard?"
"It's just haunting. It's not a traumatic hard. It's just . . . ghosts. In my head, my worst nightmare was having to return here."
"Because that would mean, what?" Mason asked.
Read the full recap of Questlove's appearance on CBS Sunday Morning via cbsnews.com. Check the footage below for a bit of nostalgia and stay tuned for more from The Roots.