Bonded by mu­tual pas­sion

Mu­sic gi­ant Jimmy Iovine in ‘De­fi­ant’ al­liance with Dr. Dre

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINMENT - BY FRAZIER MOORE

“The De­fi­ant Ones,’’ a new HBO do­cuseries about two gi­ants in the en­ter­tain­ment world, takes its ti­tle from a 1958 film clas­sic about two prison es­capees, one black and one white, who are shack­led to­gether as they make a break for free­dom.

Air­ing Sun­day through Wed­nes­day at 9 p.m. EDT, the do­cuseries tracks the lives of Dr. Dre, whose up­bring­ing in Comp­ton, Calif., in­spired him to be­come a pi­o­neer of gangsta rap, and Jimmy Iovine, a work­ing-class kid from Brook­lyn, N.Y., who made his bones as a record pro­ducer work­ing with John Len­non, Patti Smith and Bruce Spring­steen.

This four-part por­trait dif­fers markedly from the orig­i­nal “De­fi­ant Ones,’’ whose fic­tional heroes are lit­er­ally stuck with each other.

The un­likely kin­dred spir­its Dre and Iovine are bonded not by chains but by a mu­tual pas­sion that ce­mented their re­la­tion­ship with Iovine’s In­ter­scope Records, which soon after its 1990 launch was swept up in armed war­fare be­tween rap ri­vals, not to men­tion po­lit­i­cal and cor­po­rate as­sault.

With re­mark­able fi­nesse, the film laces back and forth be­tween their wildly dif­fer­ent ori­gins, then fol­lows their im­plau­si­ble as­so­ci­a­tion cul­mi­nat­ing in their 2014 sale of Beats Elec­tron­ics to Ap­ple for more than $3 bil­lion.

“The big­gest chal­lenge was to blend these men, these cul­tures, these gen­res,’’ said Allen Hughes, who di­rected “The De­fi­ant Ones.’’

Hughes said his film is meant to speak to all au­di­ences and mu­si­cal tastes.

“We want to throw a gangsta party that ev­ery­one’s in­vited to,’’ he ex­plained by phone from Los Angeles. “We had a rule in the edit­ing room: ‘If grandma wouldn’t un­der­stand it, it’s gotta go.’’’

With a bounty of archival footage and scores of new in­ter­views, the film was sev­eral years in the mak­ing.

“I kept saying, ‘This thing won’t go away,’’’ Iovine laughs. “I didn’t think it would be four episodes, man! I kept saying, ‘ONE!’’’

Ar­riv­ing for an in­ter­view last week, Iovine was sport­ing a white base­ball cap on his shaved head and a de­signer T-shirt with wood­cuts of owls, which might have sym­bol­ized his stature, at age 64, as an en­ter­tain­ment wise man, but which he in­sists just means “I love to shop and I liked the shirt, so I bought it.’’

Only days ear­lier, Iovine pre­viewed “The De­fi­ant Ones,’’ which, de­spite es­chew­ing the “he-did-this, he-did-that’’ biopic struc­ture Iovine loathes, in­evitably lays out his ca­reer as a half-cen­tury timeline of pop­u­lar mu­sic.

Along with re­call­ing his tri­umphs, was there any­thing that made him squea­mish to re­visit in the film?

“All of it,’’ Iovine says, as if by re­flex. “It was so painful, man. Even hav­ing hit records is painful, ‘cause you think you can’t do it again. Or Beats comes out with a head­phone that does re­ally well, but all of a sud­den an­other com­pany comes and chal­lenges it.

“I never cel­e­brated a suc­cess. There are no vic­tory laps. There’s no rearview mir­ror in my car. I’m al­ways mov­ing for­ward.’’ That’s the les­son he wants view­ers to take from the film. “The most im­por­tant thing I ever learned: No mat­ter how ugly it gets, keep mov­ing.’’

Even so, his ca­reer res­onates with other use­ful wis­dom.

From his first days in the mu­sic busi­ness, sweep­ing up the stu­dio where Len­non and Spring­steen made magic, “I learned how to be of ser­vice. OF ser­vice. And I took it from there all the way to Ap­ple Mu­sic. I want Ap­ple Mu­sic to be OF ser­vice, not A ser­vice — not just a util­ity.’’

Told that his in­ter­viewer is a Spo­tify guy, Iovine fires up his Ap­ple Mu­sic app and demon­strates a few of its bells and whis­tles, in­clud­ing a Favourites playlist that Ap­ple Mu­sic has just cu­rated for him: songs in­clude “Glory Days,’’ ‘’I Wanna Be Se­dated,” ‘’Just Like a Woman,” ‘’Brown Su­gar” and ‘’Mambo Baby,” a 1950s re­lease by R&B great Ruth Brown.

Iovine says he left the record busi­ness for dig­i­tal stream­ing be­cause it made sense to keep mov­ing: “I didn’t want to be the guy who sold the last CD.’’

He feels right at home at Ap­ple, where he has no ti­tle and “no one re­ports to me. I walk around the hall­way and say what I think, and people ei­ther lis­ten or they don’t. I just want to get the job done.’’

But the truth is, these days he wants more than get­ting the job done, as he re­al­ized while


Mu­sic mogul Jimmy Iovine, cen­tre, poses with rap­per Dr. Dre, left, and pro­ducer Allen Hughes at the pre­miere of HBO’s “The De­fi­ant Ones” last month at the Time Warner Cen­ter in New York. The four-part doc­u­men­tary se­ries tracks the lives of Iovine and Dre, and their un­likely part­ner­ship turn­ing out hit records and cre­at­ing Beats head­phones, which they sold to Ap­ple in 2014.

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