George Duke

May 5, 1978

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  1. 1 Interview 37:42
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How does a man who has worked with Jean-Luc Ponty, Frank Zappa, Cannonball Adderly, Stanley Clarke, and Billy Cobham keep his career's momentum going? By creating a Dukey Stick, of course!

As a virtuosic keyboard player, George Duke had recorded and toured with all of the above names by the time this interview was recorded in 1978. Covering jazz, rock, and everything on the spectrum in between, Duke then headed in a more straightforward funk direction with 1977's Reach For It and its 1978 follow-up Don't Let Go. Complete with a plexi-glass, fire-shooting, electric-rainbow-light magic wand, he was seemingly fully immersed in the funk. However, he was already working on more diverse projects and openly admits in this interview o trying to avoid being pigeonholed in any specific genre.

With such rich and varied experiences, Duke has a lot to say about music, which, along with the laid-back nature of this chat, makes for a great interview. An additional highlight is his description of a young new singer in his band, Sheila E.

00:00 - A strange, evolved, mixed audience
01:33 - 70 albums / fear of overexposure
02:56 - Reach For It / something more important than album sales
03:53 - Time: the only way to put on a good show
04:55 - Starting over as an opening act
06:07 - Getting one's style cramped; just part of the business
07:59 - Becoming more of a visual act / the Dukey Stick
09:52 - Laser music / enhancing the music
11:52 - Letting go, going with the flow (music, love, life)
13:47 - The mistakes of critics
15:00 - The fusion argument / multi-stylistic
17:02 - Transcending the fusion argument
17:36 - The funk argument / touching someone instead of impressing musicians
19:20 - Adding simplicity to the music
20:13 - Connections to punk and politics
22:14 - "Music is a found treasure"
22:47 - 1978: a good year for music / the economy's effect on live shows
24:19 - Don't Let Go
25:38 - Feeling better about his singing
26:26 - New challenges
27:32 - Being oneself while wearing different hats
28:53 - Increased sophistication in Brazilian music
30:24 - The integration of music into American society
31:13 - Current tours
31:39 - Where is Shuggie Otis?
32:18 - Producing, working with Raul de Souza
33:12 - Sheila E. / youth in the group
34:39 - The next direction, with timeline
35:44 - The George Duke image / fighting the pigeonholing
37:11 - Last words / touring