Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is best known as a drummer. Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images for MasterClass
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is best known as a drummer. Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images for MasterClass

Philly native Questlove receives first Academy Award nomination for 'Summer of Soul'

The Philly native musician Questlove has become a first-time Academy Award nominee for directing 'The Summer of Soul.'


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Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is best known for his ventures in music, particularly his role as drummer for both The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and in his band The Roots.

Questlove’s talents have been spread far in the years since his rise to prominence. 

In 2001, he released a self-titled album from The Philadelphia Experiment, his band with Philly musicians Christian McBribe and Uri Caine.

Last year, Questlove also directed Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), a documentary focusing on the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival.

The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival took place the same year as Woodstock, and promoted culture, Black pride and unity through African American music.

Summer of Soul was nominated for the ‘Best Documentary Feature’ category by the Academy Awards, making Questlove a first-time Oscar nominee.

Celebrating the achievement on Twitter, Questlove spelled out his new title of Oscar-nominated director to “see this in print.”

A Philly native, Questlove’s contributions to music throughout the years have made him a figure to watch in Philly music, out of both past and present residents.

With Summer of Soul, Questlove tells the story of a soulful culture, music, and unity. It’s a story once unheard by many. Summer of Soul is up for a Grammy Award for ‘Best Music Film,’ too.

Questlove originally had worries over directing Summer of Soul, and was hesitant to sign on for the role. It took convincing, but the musician came around after reading Prince’s memoir The Beautiful Ones, realizing his need to tell the story of the Harlem Cultural Festival.

“He talks about this moment with his dad taking him to see the Woodstock movie when he was 11, and how that changes his life. He knew instantly: That’s what I’m going to do. And I thought, ‘Whoa, what if this film had existed then?’ Think of the millions of other kids that this could have affected,” Questlove told The Philadelphia Inquirer

The documentary Woodstock was released in 1970, one year after the festival. The documentary tells the story of the festival from its conception to its closing act.

It was not only the same year that Woodstock and the Harlem Cultural Festival were held, but the same Summer as well.

Questlove has drawn parallels between the two festivals on more than one occasion, highlighting how the Harlem Cultural Festival could have affected the lives of many young people if the story had been shared with them.

This year, a few more Philly-based acts made it to the nominees in addition to Questlove.

One of Philadelphia’s favorite and best-known stars, Will Smith, was awarded a nomination for his role as Richard Williams in King Richard.

King Richard tells the story of William’s relationship with his daughters, tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams. Smith channeled his own interactions with fatherhood for the role.

Malvern, PA-native director Adam McKay was nominated for best original screenplay alongside his Montgomery County-native co-writer, David Sirota.

The pair were nominated for their work writing the McKay-directed Netflix dark comedy Don’t Look Up.

The Academy Awards are set to air on Sunday, March 27 at 8:00 p.m. EST on ABC.


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