For a musician or artist starting out, being inspired by those who came before can make the difference between pressing on and giving up. A new series of films features several musicians discussing the profound influence of John Hammond.
Hammond, the white record producer and talent scout, is credited with discovering Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, and Count Basie, among many others. Guinness recently celebrated Hammond’s life and influence in a TV spot, “Intolerant Champion,” which was released at the beginning of February. Now, the brewer is following that up with a series of four shorts, in which Rudimental, Lianne La Havas, Lady Leshurr, and Foals each discuss Hammond’s legacy.
In the first film of the series, members of U.K. drum and bass outfit, Rudimental, talk about their backgrounds and how the example of Hammond helped them. Amir Amor, who came to London as an asylum seeker, says, “Music is just much more interesting and much more fun to make and to listen to when you’re not limited by boundaries. That’s what John Hammond taught us; to not discriminate against race or against genre, to be open to anything.” The film closes with a quote from Hammond, “I saw no color line in music.” It is the first of four films, with one set to be released per week.
The “Intolerant Champion” campaign, created by agency AMV BBDO, also includes a webpage and an accompanying two-minute long film, which outlines Hammond’s story in more detail. Born in 1910 to a well-heeled, uptown New York family, he developed a passion for jazz and was soon sneaking out to clubs in Harlem. At the time, the 1930s, venues were segregated and often white-only audiences watched black musicians. “I was determined to break every segregation law in the world,” Hammond says in archive footage used in the film. He went on to host a radio show and frequently trawled clubs looking for talent. He later worked for Colombia Records. One of his greatest achievements was persuading big band leader Benny Goodman to hire black musicians, creating the first integrated ensemble.
The title “Intolerant Champion” comes from Hammond’s own self-assessment: “I am the sometimes intolerant champion of tolerance.”