Jimmy Iovine is a “sponge.” At least that’s how the former Interscope chairman and Beats co-founder describes himself in a new back-and-forth with GQ for its Men of the Year issue. In a wide-ranging discussion, Iovine talks about that time he totally lied to John Lennon, his special bond with Dr. Dre, and how immersing himself completely into projects (like engineering classic albums by Bruce Springsteen, discovering Eminem or filling the “hole” in Apple’s music strategy by selling Beats to them for $3 billion) has benefited him. “I can’t learn in school, but I can learn from somebody who I think is cool and great,” he says. “I have a gift: I’m very lucky to be able to spot when a person is special. I’m good at casting my life, you know?”
His Pitch to Apple to Buy Beats: “I said, ‘I don’t want to work for anybody else. I want to do this at Apple. I know I can achieve this at Apple. I don’t want to shop it. I wanna come here, to Steve’s company… I know you have a hole in music right now; let me plug it.’ I think it was two years before they said yeah. … After Steve died, and with the rise of streaming, I could see they needed something. Beats Music fit.”
How He Approaches Big Ideas: “Life is a balance of fear and overcoming it. You can use fear as a tailwind or a headwind. I’m most proud that I thought of Beats at 55. Dre and I want to move the needle on the culture. That’s everything to me. ‘We caused it.’ I’d say it’s more important than money, but you wouldn’t believe me.”
On Dre: “We trust each other implicitly. It’s the closest to a band as I was ever in. We know what each other does, and we trust each other’s instincts so much, that when he’s moving somewhere and I go, ‘No,’ he goes, ‘Okay, let’s not do that.'”
What He’d Say to 19-Year-Old Jimmy: “Get your bullshit out of your way and be open-minded. And then I’d push him in the direction of marrying technology and content. Most technology companies are culturally inept, and most entertainment companies are technologically inept. You can’t live like that anymore.”
John Lennon FTW: “You know, I’m 20 years old, and [Lennon] goes, ‘Why are you doing this?’ I said, ‘I saw you guys on Ed Sullivan; I bought a guitar, and I wanted to be in a band. And I realized I couldn’t be in a band, so I wanted to get as close to it as I can.’ I said, ‘John, why’d you get into it?’ He said, ‘To get laid.’ I said, ‘F-ck, that’s why I got into it!'”
Read the full Q&A at GQ.com.