Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Fow a while now, I've been following Questlove, drummer for The Roots, on Twitter.  Read a whole bunch of interviews with him, too. He has this really nice combo of humor and a serious ability to reflect on and analyze music and its relationship to everything else in life.

In addition to catching him on his nightly gig with The Roots on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, I've seen him live twice.  The first time, he was a panelist at the premier screening of the VHI rock doc Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America (see my post on it HERE).  Given the huge role that Soul Train played in his own life, Ahmir made for a fantastic presenter at this Paley Center event.

The second time I saw - and briefly met - Ahmir was last week at an event to promote his new book Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove.  At Powerhouse Books in Dumbo, Ahmir answered questions posed by both his co-author Ben Greenman and by audience members.

Questlove first shared his reluctance to write the book. "I thought my story would be boring, " he stated.  [Wait.  What??!! ] He continued:  "My life has not been mired in the narrative of drugs and violence where I was saved by music."  

He also expanded upon his reputation for having an incredible musical memory, one where he refers to particular songs to recall moments in his own personal history.  The first time he heard guitarist Bill Withers, at age 2, is when he cut his left hand pretending to play a glass guitar-shaped ashtray.

As the son of a singer, Ahmir grew up steeped in music.  His parents pretty much eliminated television in order to make room for music.  His childhood home contained a 5000+ record collection, one which reflected the particular tastes of each member of the family.

Questlove remembers 1996 as being a turning point in the life of Hip Hop.  "It's when Adam and Eve bit into the Apple: Hip Hop discovered consumer culture."

Here's an abbreviated, paraphrased recap of  the audience Q and A portion of the evening:

Q:  What are you listening to now?

A: Comedy records, including Tig Notaro. 

Q:  Who would be part of your dream music collaboration?

A:  Bill Withers.

Q:  What do you think of Kanye West's new album, Yeezus.

A: You have to listen to live with an album for a month before you pass judgement on it.

Q: What do you hope to have written four years from now?

A: I am writing a book about Soul Train.

Q:  How do you have time to do everything you do?  [Ed Note: In addition to being a drummer, Ahmir is a DJ, music journalist, record producer, and joint frontman for the The Roots, which is the in-house band for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.}

A: I will answer this question in 10 words or less:


Post Script: The day after the PowerHouse event, Ahmir tweeted: "First day of summer. Sick. :( " and I tweeted back: "The world needs you well-rested, good man."

I wanna see this guy live a good, long life.

Photo Credit:


On my first day as a volunteer docent at the stunning Brooklyn Botanic Garden, I had the pleasure of meeting the Garden's President Emeritus, Betty Scholtz.

Bette, who has been with the BBG for 53 years, has her own office there and is still carrying on good and important work.

While eating lunch together in the staff dining room, Bette told me wonderful stories of her history both at the BBG and as a resident of Brooklyn. 

She's the kind of person I want to be both now and at her age:  sharp as a tack, vibrant, and totally dedicated to providing positive experiences for young people in the natural environment.

When I went to take this photo of her during her coffee break, she raised her mug and brightly exclaimed "Cheers!"

Here's some info the BBG shared about Bette on the 50th anniversary of her time there:

On November 29, 2010, Elizabeth Scholtz, BBG's Director Emeritus, celebrated 50 years of outstanding service to the Garden. For half a century, Betty has been a vital resource for staff, volunteers, and visitors, who treasure her vast knowledge of horticulture and the good humor for which she is famed. Betty is a peerless ambassador and advocate for public gardens and horticultural education throughout the world. She has led over 100 botanical tour groups to 46 countries for BBG since 1966 and has mentored several generations of North American public garden professionals.

Born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1921, Betty received a Bachelor of Science in botany and zoology from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. After a distinguished career in medical research in Cape Town and Boston, she joined the staff of BBG in 1960 as head of Adult Education. She eventually became director of the Garden and also served as its first vice president. Under Betty’s watch, BBG weathered the city government’s bankruptcy, grew the Adult Education program from 1,100 over 4,000 students, and improved the Garden’s collections.

Betty's unfailingly positive outlook on life, keen interest in people—especially in young people—and overarching love for gardens continue to inspire everyone she meets.