As a boy, Roy Eaton’s mother told him that as a black person in America you do 200 percent of the work to get 100 percent of the credit. So that’s what he did: A music prodigy, he played at Carnegie Hall at age 7, graduated from City College, received a master’s degree in music from the Manhattan School of Music and fought in the Korean War. These days he is best known for his successful career in the advertising industry and as the first black person to break into the creative department of a major advertising agency at Y&R in 1955.
But what he loves most is giving back. “It’s not about me,” said Eaton, who addressed CCNY students as part of a recent Lunch with Leaders Lecture series hosted by MCA. “I want to find some way that I can impact you and your lives as you mature and grow in this challenging world.”
Eaton knows about challenges. Breaking into the business was not an easy task. Eaton explains, “I was probably the most qualified man in the world.” Eaton pointed to his cheek, “but I’m black!”
Eaton went on to create 75 percent of all the music that Y&R produced. He transformed the industry with his ability to use music to deliver memorable messages. Eaton explains, “I wanted to use music for more than just entertainment or simple memorability. I’ve always believed that music is a powerful force in connecting consumers to a product.”
Now 83, and a father of 11 year old twins, Eaton wants to pass on his years of wisdom and inspire the young. “Adversity to me is what has been the engine to my life,” Eaton said. “You create your own world. There is nothing out there that can stop you. Only you can stop yourself.”
As the lecture came to an end, Eaton saved the best for last and sat at the piano and played his own composition “Peace Piece.” The audience of young hopefuls sat in awe of this gifted man.