A Hip Hop artist, even one who whose group has sold millions of records globally and was recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, isn’t the person we typically turn to when needing relationship advice.
That is, until, you pick up a copy of Old School Love and Why It Works (Dey St. 2020; $26.99) by Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons and his wife, Justine Simmons, long admired by friends for the longevity of their 30 year marriage.
“We’ve had hard times, but we have resilience and we always knew we wanted to be together,” says Rev, front man of Run-DMC.
“Now people come up to us, people who see us on TV or follow us on Instagram,” says Justine about their reality shows—Run’s House, All About the Washingtons and Rev Run’s Sunday Suppers. “They ask us for advice or say we should write a book about how we make our marriage work.”
You can’t have a marriage without a love story, so let’s start with theirs. They met when Rev Run was just Joey but, still at the age of 15, an up and coming musician. He met Justine when performing at a roller rink. She was 14 but a vision in blue as he remembers. They went out, they liked each other, he wrote her a letter saying, “I will marry you one day.” But though they both lived in New York, the physical distance eventually worked against them. They parted. Joey became Rev Run, front man for the first rap group to earn a Grammy Lifetime Achievement honor. He was on top—fame, gold and platinum records, millions of fans, long days and crazy nights as he recalls. For some that would be all you’d ever need.
But there must have been something missing because years later when his cousin asked him if he remembered a girl named Justine, Rev Run asked him to get her number. He called and just like that the relationship was on again.
So what makes a marriage last, I ask Rev and he refers me to the chapter he wrote about that very subject. It’s simple but it all makes sense. “If you want to go partying and clubbing and carousing and drinking, here’s a better piece of advice: Do. Not. Get. Married.” Instead just stay single.
He has more to say.
“Be selfless, not selfish,” he tells me. “Pay attention, listen to what your spouse is saying, don’t let it be in the background. “If I can see she really wants something or if she doesn’t see my point of view, then I back up. One of the biggest takeaways I want for this book is that it’s important to listen to the whispers to avoid the screams later.”
Takeaways are a big component of their book. Each of the chapters, written alternately by Rev and Justine end with a page of “Takeaways” or their advice on nourishing relationships.
Here’s a big one from Justine.
“Both my parents were divorced and remarried,” she says. “If you have children and go into another relationship, make sure that they love your kids like they love you. And make sure you love their kids. If not, then don’t marry that person for your own selfish reasons because your child or their children will suffer.”
Luckily, when Justine met Rev she loved his three daughters. When the two adopted after the death of their infant daughter, they all blended into one family. Parenting became so important that the couple wrote Take Back Your Parenting: A Challenge to America’s Parents about how to make it all work.
Which brings us to this. Both Rev and Justine, who are a deacon and deaconess, want to help guide others—whether it’s in parenting or love. Helping is what they are all about.
One last thought. The letter 15-year-old Rev wrote the note pledging to marry Justine one day—well, she saved it and when they reconnected, she gave it to him.
What: Rev Run and Justine Simmons presentation, Q&A and book signing event. Old School Love and Why It Works
When: Friday, January 31, 7- 9 pm
Where: Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville, IL
Cost: Each ticket includes a copy of the book and admits one or two people. You will receive your book when you arrive at the event. They will not be available for pick up before that time. Rev Run and Justine will be signing each attendees book and posing for photographs after their presentation.
fyi: For more information and to purchase tickets, 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com