Anyone who has ever visited these parts knows the type of love and admiration we have for Quincy Jones. I placed the above video from a campaign we did a few years ago to illustrate a point about the culture of music versus the commodification of the same.

In all fairness to Mr. Jones he discussed at length his involvement in the above project that we took him to task over. He had zero involvement. It was a tribute. You know like the tribute that you receive that you don’t really want or like but you are a gracious enough human being to grin and bare it as it were. Quincy Jones represents the best of the culture of music has to offer. Has he had tremendous commercial success? Absolutely! But somehow that success never superseded his musical integrity (and this is just a guess on my part) because Quincy never forgot from whence he came musically.

Every genre has its respective moment in the sun shall we say. In this country it seemingly starts out and ends the same way…

1. The music of the(some group of) people gains a critical mass
2. A few early entrepreneurs make some commercial headway
3. Several well-funded corporate entities make even more commercial headway
4. The critical mass turns into popular mass
5. The original purveyors, creators and audiences of the music are slowly replaced
6. The cultural message and indicators turn into commercial ones
7. The music becomes unrecognizable to the community and culture that birthed it
8. This phenomenon is always aided and abetted by “critics” who somehow become empowered to at once criticize and create cultural imperatives
9. The pioneers are often not rewarded for their pioneering efforts, many die penniless and forgotten
10. Rinse and repeat for: Blues, Jazz, R&B and now welcome to the club Hip Hop

So what is it that we shouldn’t forget? The above listed points and I’m sure many others that we could identify as we’ve watched this play out over and over again.

What is it that we should do? Challenge everything. Hold everyone accountable. Ignore the hype. Embrace the real, the genuine. Respect the elders and encourage the upstarts that respect the culture. If radio isn’t doing the job turn it off. If television has made everything a mockery, a reality show and the music has been affected turn it off.

There is tremendous power in knowing and respecting from whence you’ve come so that the lessons that are learned from history are not repeated. Unfortunately, far too much is being repeated when it comes to the commercialization of music. We should know better. We must do better.

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.