The partners in a musical revolution can prove to be surprising.
Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre came from different disciplines – the former from producing albums and then co-founding a label (Interscope Records), and the latter from becoming one of the icons of rap and hip-hop – but the work they ultimately did together has inspired a new HBO documentary miniseries. ‘”The Defiant Ones” runs nightly Sunday through Wednesday, July 9 through 12.
Directed by Allen Hughes (“Menace II Society”), the project traces the separate paths and eventual collaboration of Iovine and Dre … largely in their own words, but also through additional interviews of such other music-industry figures as Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Tom Petty, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Gwen Stefani, Ice Cube, Stevie Nicks, will.i.am, Diddy, Trent Reznor, Nas and David Geffen. Rare footage showing some of the artists writing and recording is included.
Like the classic Sidney Poitier-Tony Curtis movie it shares its title with, “The Defiant Ones” is “about a relationship between a white guy and a black guy,” Iovine says. “We both grew up in racially charged neighborhoods, and the reason why I agreed to do this was because it was about the relationship. (There was) something about it. We just hit it off, and through very difficult circumstances — some circumstances that have never been seen in entertainment before — we got through it. We stuck together, and that’s what the story is about, really.”
However, Iovine wavered about doing “The Defiant Ones,” dropping out at one point and prompting the suspension of its development for a year. “I didn’t want to do a documentary about me,” he explains. “I was going to do it about Interscope. The magic trick that got me to do it was that Allen said, ‘No. It’s about your relationship (with Dre).’ So somewhere in my mind, I said, ‘Oh, the relationship. So that makes it not about me.’ Well, sitting here right now, we know it’s bull— because it is about me, right? But I can’t hide from it now.”
Iovine also admits to mixed feelings about music stars commenting on him in ‘The Defiant Ones.” He says he hasn’t had contact with Petty “in a bit,” but he adds he “grew up with” Springsteen and Bono.
“When you make an album, it’s like making a movie,” Iovine reflects. “My albums always take a year or a year-and-a-half, and you are with (the artists) every day … which is two or three of you in a room with no windows and lousy food. So you get to know these people really well, and you hope that business doesn’t come in after work.
“Remember, I shifted from (being) a record producer to a record company (owner). I became sort of ‘the man,‘ so it’s a complicated thing … but, you know, we are all getting older. And some things I feel great about, some things I don’t feel great about. Some of those relationships are still great, and some of them aren’t so great. But what am I going to do?”