Exclusive: Rickey Minor Talks Whitney Houston, "American Idol," Positivity & More

Rickey Minor

Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images


Exclusive: Rickey Minor Talks Whitney Houston, "American Idol," Positivity & More

From Gladys Knight to Beyoncé and beyond: How the music master continues to grow his legacy with passion, positivity and a whole lot of hard work

GRAMMYs/Aug 24, 2018 - 08:41 pm

When entering your career with your legacy in mind, you put forth effort to building it with grace and determination, and you come to understand there will be challenges and victories for others to learn from. Few professionals in any industry have done this as well as music director, composer, and producer Rickey Minor, who excels at not only enriching his own live but the lives of others.

The Emmy Award-winning stalwart has worked with a multitude of renowned artists such as Whitney Houston, Gladys Knight, Beyoncé, Elton John, Usher, and Aretha Franklin – and the list continues to grow. He’s acquired a wide range of television credits including the GRAMMY Awards Telecast, "The Tonight Show," "The Emmys," and "American Idol." While building his legacy and continuously developing his craft, Minor has never lost sight of the impact he’s wanted to make on the lives of the people his work has touched.

"I think what your real legacy is, is how you make a difference and how it impacts the lives of the future," he says. "Music is what I do, it’s not who I am. Who I am is going to be really passionate about the future."

Before writing his self-help book on hard work and positivity, There’s No Traffic On The Extra Mile, Minor taught himself what it meant to go the distance in order to live a fulfilling life. After picking up his first instrument at 14-years-old and attending UCLA on a full scholarship, Minor discovered his purpose early in his career when he landed the gig of a lifetime at the young age of 19.

"A real defining moment for me was getting the gig with Gladys Knight because then I felt like I could do anything," he reminisces with excitement. "The fact that I left school to play music and in a year’s time I got my very first gig... It was at that point that I thought it’s possible for me to make a living. Then all of the other things lined up as they do when you just stay focused and work hard."

His work with Knight led him to working with the late Whitney Houston years later. In 1986, Rickey Minor joined Houston’s band and a short time later became the band’s music director. While in that role, he viewed each member as his peers and as people he could learn from.

"We weren’t looking to break any records. We didn’t know anything. We were kids," he says.

Minor appears in the new documentary, Whitney, where he discusses his experience working with the superstar. He's still astounded by the Houston's groundbreaking performance of the "Star Spangled Banner" at the 1991 Super Bowl, which Minor arranged and produced, and he knew that his purpose wasn’t to be achieved alone.

"No one knew how it would impact the world and that we’d talk about it years later," he says. "That was a game changer. To contribute to that is just incredible because it takes a team. It’s not a one-shot I did or you did; it’s we did."

Understanding that everything had to line up to make the evening perfect was first on his list. "This was the Gulf War, so there was a lot at stake there," he explained. "The country was feeling like it needed to ban together and [Houston] did that with that vocal. No one understands what it takes to do that, in a stadium like that."

After being on the road, to joining other musicians in studios and conducting symphonies Minor has picked up various valuable lessons along the way, from being on the road to hunkering down in the studio to conducting symphonies. Today, he's a generous teacher to those willing and ready to learn.

"My job in theory is very easy," Minor says. "My job is to add value. It’s not to change somebody’s mind. It’s to make whatever you are better. To make sure people know that you’re there working."

Minor also explained that, while working with an artist, he’s not there to try to make them someone else, he’s there to assist them in finding their center and propelling them to be the best version of themselves.

"I’m going to give them options and let them pick the best one for them," he says.

Minor’s leadership has helped many aspiring artists find their voice. As a returning music director to one of America’s most sought out talent shows, "American Idol," he has demonstrated the opportunity shows like "…Idol" and "The Four" can create for developing a long-lasting career. This type of extra preparation has helped certain artists set themselves apart from mere viral sensations plucked from the social clouds and placed into high pressured situations.

"I think it’s a great thing that this outlet happened," he says. "'…Idol' is a great platform because people get a chance to be seen where they never would’ve been seen before."

"That’s the incredible thing," he continued. "That’s where the Carrie [Underwood]s and Jennifer[Hudson]s have really made it big but in a lot of cases. The problem becomes that [viral sensations] don’t have enough experience so they aren’t able to rise to the point where they can sing a duet with Adele or Beyoncé. It’s because a lot of those folks had a natural ability and they were going to be strong no matter what, and to top it off, they’ve had more experience. They’ve had a chance to get more experience."

Aside from emphasizing the importance of gained experience, Minor shares what he does in his beloved "Rickey Time," where he returns to his center, spends time with family and friends, while unplugged from the remaining parts of the world to reflect and practice gratitude.

This reflective time helps manifest his contagious philosophy on positivity, which he shares with anyone who may cross his path. Being a Louisiana native, later raised in the Watts, to beating all odds and stereotypes placed in front of him for being a Black man, Rickey Minor has transformed his positive way of thinking into a lifestyle.

"Where it starts is in acceptance of yourself. Accepting who you are, where you are, where you’re from and being okay with it," he says. "Whatever I am, I am. If you don’t foresee the thing that you wanted anymore, know that it is okay to change your mind. Don’t feel like you need to prove anything to anyone. It is your life. Ask for help. People will help you."

Asking for help and reciprocating it is something Minor has mastered. He’s guided many of the greatest into the highest operating level of their careers while aiding in their defining moments. For Minor, those moments are made through dedication and hard work, which in turn forms a sustaining legacy.

 "We have limited time. You can make more money but you can’t get anymore time. For me, I would hope that the music part of my legacy is that hard work and focus will help push you forward in whatever career you pick."

Rickey Minor is a member of the Recording Academy and can be seen in the Academy's We Are Music campaign.

Catching Up On Music News Powered By The Recording Academy Just Got Easier. Have A Google Home Device? "Talk To GRAMMYs"

Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More



Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

Mumu Fresh On What She Learned From Working With The Roots, Rhyming & More

Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY


Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY

Director Allen Hughes' four-part documentary takes home Best Music Film honors for its portrayal of the unlikely partnership that changed the music business

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 02:09 am

The team behind The Defiant Ones celebrated a big win for Best Music Film at the 60th GRAMMY Awards. The crew awarded include director Allen Hughes and producers Sarah Anthony, Fritzi Horstman, Broderick Johnson, Gene Kirkwood, Andrew Kosove, Laura Lancaster, Michael Lombardo, Jerry Longarzo, Doug Pray & Steven Williams.

In a year rife with quality music documentaries and series, the bar has been set high for this dynamic category. The Defiant Ones is a four-part HBO documentary telling the story of an unlikely duo taking the music business by storm seems better suited for fantastical pages of a comic book, but for engineer-turned-mogul Jimmy Iovine and super-producer Dr. Dre, it's all truth.The Defiant Ones recounts their histories, their tribulations and their wild success. These include first-hand accounts from those who were there in Iovine's early days, such as Bruce Springsteen and U2's Bono, as well as those on board when Dre and Iovine joined forces, such as Snoop Dogg and Eminem.

The competition was stiff as the category was filled with compelling films such as One More Time With Feeling, Two Trains Runnin', Soundbreaking, and Long Strange Trip. 

Attention Music Fans: Take The GRAMMY Challenge NOW On KIK And Facebook Messenger

Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs



Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs

Also see James Fauntleroy, Reba McIntire, Latroit, and more after they stepped off the GRAMMY stage

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 05:39 am

What do artists do the moment they walk off the GRAMMY stage from presenting, accepting an award or performing? Now, you can find out.

Take a peak at Album Of The Year GRAMMY winner Bruno Mars, 60th GRAMMY Awards Host James Cordon, Cardi B minutes before her electrifying performance of "Finesse," and more!

Also see Best Pop Duo/Group Performance GRAMMY winners Portugal. The Man posing with their first career GRAMMY Award, Best Roots Gospel Album GRAMMY winner Reba McIntire right after she walked offstage, Best R&B Song GRAMMY winner James Fauntleroy, Best Remixed Recording GRAMMY winner Latroit, and many more, with these photos from backstage during the 60th GRAMMY Awards.

Getting The Latest Music News Just Got Easier. Introducing: GRAMMY Bot. Find it On KIK and Facebook Messenger 

Bruno Mars Wins Song Of The Year | 2018 GRAMMYs


Bruno Mars Wins Song Of The Year | 2018 GRAMMYs

The Hawaiian native takes home Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like" at the 60th GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 08:11 am

Feeling the 24K Magic, Bruno Mars' successful progress through the categories he's been nominated in at the 60th GRAMMY Awards picked up another one at Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like."

Christopher Brody Brown and Philip Lawrence co-write with Mars under the name Shampoo Press & Curl. The other winning songwriters for Mars' hit tonight in this category are James Fauntleroy and production team "The Sterotypes" — Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus and  Jonathan Yip.

For additional "Finesse" on stage at the 60th GRAMMY Awards, Mars was joined by Cardi B for a reprise of their 148-million-views hit remix.

The Album Of The Year GRAMMY Award wrapped up the night and wrapped up Bruno Mars' complete rampage through his six nominated categories — now six wins.

Attention Music Fans: Take The GRAMMY Challenge NOW On KIK And Facebook Messenger