Last week I interviewed Ahmir Thompson about his new memoir. Really enjoyed speaking with him. Just a very thoughtful person with a lot of ideas and great stories.
This bit from our conversation jumped out at me. Fathers and sons. An endlessly interesting topic for me and of course tomorrow is Father’s Day so I am thinking about it again. (One year ago today I posted an excerpt from the film Tyson with some thoughts about fathers.)
I can’t say how it is for other people, but me, the way I grew up, hearing from my father that he was proud of me really was (and is) the greatest feeling. And I suppose just because of who he is and who I am and our prototypically Midwestern reserved nature, I didn’t hear it a lot. Which made the moments when I did hear it feel that much better.
He sacrificed everything so that I could go to private school. Sometimes bills weren’t paid. Sometimes gas was cut off. But my parents made sure I had the best education and drum lessons no matter what. In his head, he wanted me to follow the path of my schoolmates, who would get pulled out of class to go play with Miles Davis. That was my dad’s idea of high art. My father wanted me to be a worker, and I dreamed of being an owner.
By the time Things Fall Apart came out and we had finally managed to go above the surface, he suddenly saw the light. He knew we were legit. Now, he’s our biggest champion. I’m sure that How I Got Over and Undun are still in his CD changer in the car. Getting my father’s approval was always like this impossible Mount Fuji mission that I just got to the top of two or three years ago. Now that he sees how I’ve been able to make a living at this for 20 years, at least, he says, “I’m very proud of you. You are the greatest thing that happened to me.” That was the greatest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.