Head of Blue Note Records, film director and visionary record producer: Don Was details his storied life in sound.
Growing up in suburban Detroit in the ’60s and ’70s, Don Fagenson spent his youth like many others of his generation: Smoking joints in dark rooms, jamming with friends and dreaming of living free. But through the alchemy of timing and talent, he became Don Was, and those friends he jammed with became part of his internationally acclaimed funk-rock fusion band, Was (Not Was). In the decades since the height of Was (Not Was)’s popularity in the ’80s and early ’90s, Was has gone on to do a wide range of work within music and film. He’s won Grammy Awards for his music production; collaborated with artists like Elton John, Willie Nelson, the B-52’s, Bonnie Raitt, Ziggy Marley and the Rolling Stones; and worked as a musical consultant on films such as Thelma and Louise, The Rainmaker and Toy Story, among myriad others. In 2012, he was appointed president of seminal jazz record label Blue Note. In his Fireside Chat, recorded in the lead-up to Blue Note’s 80th anniversary celebrations, Was discusses the influence of Detroit, sonic epiphanies, meditating before shows and running one of the world’s best-known record labels.