NPR: For Questlove, the Pandemic Meant Embracing Quiet — and Buying a Farm
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is coming out of the pandemic a changed man. The co-founder of the Roots and the music director for the Tonight Show did something he never thought he’d do — he bought a farm in upstate New York.
“The last year has really been a big lesson for me in terms of self-love,” Questlove says. “I was world famous for being a machine. … I thought chaos was the only way that I could exist. But now I embrace quiet and I can hear myself think.”
Now Questlove has ventured into a new arena: He’s made his directorial debut with the documentary Summer of Soul, which tells the story of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of six free concerts held in what is now Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park.
The festival, which became known as the “Black Woodstock,” featured performances from some of the biggest names in Black music, including Stevie Wonder, Sly and The Family Stone, Nina Simone and B.B. King. But footage of the concert wasn’t broadcast widely, and memory of the festival had faded from history — until Thompson’s film.
He says one of the best things about the documentary is the number of people who reached out to him to say that they had unexpectedly seen a loved one among the 300,000 concert goers. One person spotted their brother, who later died in Vietnam.
“They never had a photo of him. And somehow we had a close up of him for like six seconds,” Questlove says. “So that was really emotional for them to see him as a 19-year-old. So every day this is happening, people are getting their memories back.”