Legendary producer, composer Quincy Jones gets candid…REAL candid about some of the GIANTS in popular music and the state of MUSIC today. He talks about the SECRET life of Michael Jackson, Marlon Brando and MORE! He talks The Beatles, the Clintons, Ivanka Trump and so much more.
You worked with Michael Jackson more than anyone he wasn’t related to. What’s something people don’t understand about him?
I hate to get into this publicly, but Michael stole a lot of stuff. He stole a lot of songs. [Donna Summer’s] “State of IndependenceOriginally written by Vangelis and longtime Yes front man Jon Anderson, “State of Independence” was recorded by Donna Summer in 1982. Jones produced Summer’s version, Michael Jackson helped out on backing vocals, and the song’s central riff does sound awfully similar (albeit faster) to the iconic bass riff on Jackson’s hit single “Billie Jean.” It should also be noted that, last year, Jones won a lawsuit over a royalties dispute against Jackson’s estate. ” and “Billie Jean.” The notes don’t lie, man. He was as Machiavellian as they come.
Greedy, man. Greedy. “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” — Greg Phillinganes wrote the c sectionPhillinganes, an in-demand studio keyboardist, played on a handful of Jackson-Jones collaborations, including the 1979 album Off the Wall, from which “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” comes. . Michael should’ve given him 10 percent of the song. Wouldn’t do it.
What about outside of music? What’s misunderstood about Michael?
I used to kill him about the plastic surgery, man. He’d always justify it and say it was because of some disease he had. Bullshit.
How much were his problems wrapped up with fame?
You mean with the way he looked? He had a problem with his looks because his father told him he was ugly and abused hi mJackson described being abused by his father Joe in a 1993 interview with Oprah, as well as in a 2003 interview with Martin Bashir. “It was really bad,” he recalled during the latter. . What do you expect?
It’s such a strange juxtaposition — how Michael’s music was so joyous, but his life just seems sadder and more odd as time goes by.
Yes, but at the end Michael’s problem was Propofol In 2009, not long after Jackson’s death, the Los Angeles County coroner announced that the singer’s death was caused by “acute propofol intoxication.” Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, had been prescribing the powerful sedative, which Jackson called his “milk,” to help with the singer’s insomnia. In 2011, Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death. , and that problem affects everyone — doesn’t matter if you’re famous. Big Pharma making OxyContin and all that shit is a serious thing. I was around the White House for eight years with the Clintons, and I’d learn about how much influence Big Pharma has. It’s no joke. What’s your sign, man?
Me too. It’s a great sign.
You just mentioned the Clintons, who are friends of yours. Why is there still such visceral dislike of them? What are other people not seeing in Hillary, for example, that you see?
It’s because there’s a side of her — when you keep secrets, they backfire.
This is something else I shouldn’t be talking about.
You sure seem to know a lot.
I know too much, man.
What’s something you wish you didn’t know?
Who killed Kennedy.
Who did it?
[Chicago mobster Sam] GiancanaChicago gangster Sam Giancana is a well-known name among Kennedy conspiracists, both for his alleged help in delivering Illinois votes for Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election and the 1963 assassination of the president. The latter theory largely stems from Giancana’s murder in 1975, not long before he was supposed to testify before a Senate committee investigating collusion between the mob and the CIA. . The connection was there between Sinatra and the Mafia and Kennedy. Joe Kennedy — he was a bad man — he came to Frank to have him talk to Giancana about getting votes.
I’ve heard this theory before, that the mob helped win Illinois for Kennedy in 1960.
We shouldn’t talk about this publicly. Where you from?
We’ve obviously been learning more lately about just how corrosive the entertainment industry can be for women. As someone who’s worked in that business at the highest levels for so many years, do all the recent revelations come as a surprise?
No, man. Women had to put up with fucked-up shit. Women and brothers — we’re both dealing with the glass ceiling.
But what about the alleged behavior of a friend of yours like Bill Cosby? Is it hard to square what he’s been accused of with the person you know?
It was all of them. Brett Ratner. [Harvey] Weinstein. Weinstein — he’s a jive motherfucker. Wouldn’t return my five calls. A bully.
What about Cosby, though?
What about it?
Were the allegations a surprise to you?
We can’t talk about this in public, man.
If you could snap your fingers and fix one problem in the country, what would it be?
Racism. I’ve been watching it a long time — the ’30s to now. We’ve come a long way but we’ve got a long way to go. The South has always been fucked up, but you know where you stand. The racism in the North is disguised. You never know where you stand. That’s why what’s happening now is good, because people are saying they are racists who didn’t used to say it. Now we know.
What’s stirred everything up? Is it all about Trumpism?
It’s Trump and uneducated rednecks. Trump is just telling them what they want to hear. I used to hang out with him. He’s a crazy motherfucker. Limited mentally — a megalomaniac, narcissistic. I can’t stand him. I used to date Ivanka, you know.
Yes, sir. Twelve years ago. Tommy Hilfiger, who was working with my daughter KidadaA former model and current designer, Kidada is the daughter of Jones and his ex-wife Peggy Lipton. Jones’s other daughter with Lipton is the actress Rashida Jones. Jones has five other children, with four other women. , said, “Ivanka wants to have dinner with you.” I said, “No problem. She’s a fine motherfucker.” She had the most beautiful legs I ever saw in my life. Wrong father, though.
Would your friend Oprah be a good president?
I don’t think she should run. She doesn’t have the chops for it. If you haven’t been governor of a state or the CEO of a company or a military general, you don’t know how to lead people.
Do you see a future for the music business?
There isn’t a music business anymore! If these people had paid attention to Shawn Fanning 20 years ago, we wouldn’t be in this mess. But the music business is still too full of these old-school bean counters. You can’t be like that. You can’t be one of these back-in-my-day people.
You’re talking about business not music, but, and I mean this respectfully, don’t some of your thoughts about music fall under the category of “back in my day”?
Musical principles exist, man. Musicians today can’t go all the way with the music because they haven’t done their homework with the left brain. Music is emotion and science. You don’t have to practice emotion because that comes naturally. Technique is different. If you can’t get your finger between three and four and seven and eight on a piano, you can’t play. You can only get so far without technique. People limit themselves musically, man. Do these musicians know tango? Macumba? Yoruba music? Samba? Bossa nova? Salsa? Cha-cha?
Maybe not the cha-cha.
[Marlon] BrandoThe actor and Jones were longtime friends. During a down period in Jones’s life, he spent time on the island in Tahiti which Brando owned. The two called each other Leroy, owing to a story recounted extremely well (one among many) in this recent GQ profile. used to go cha-cha dancing with us. He could dance his ass off. He was the most charming motherfucker you ever met. He’d fuck anything. Anything! He’d fuck a mailbox. James Baldwin. Richard Pryor. Marvin Gaye.
He slept with them? How do you know that?
[Frowns.] Come on, man. He did not give a fuck! You like Brazilian music?
Yeah, but I don’t know much beyond Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil.
Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso are the kings! You know, I visit the favelas every year. Those motherfuckers have a hard life. They’re tough, though. You think our shit in America’s bad? It’s worse there.
I read that as a young man you used to carry around a .32.
Did you ever fire it?
[Grins.] Just practicin’.
Okay, let me ask you a left-field question. In your memoir, there’s a section where you talk about —
Being a dog?
That’s not what I was thinking of, but yeah, that’s in there. I was thinking of a section where you describe having a nervous breakdown not long after Thriller. You talk so often about your ups — I’m wondering if maybe you can talk about one of your downs.
What happened was that I was a producer on The Color Purple. Spielberg and me are still great friends, man. He’s a great fucking guy. I loved working with him.
Yep, but what happened on The Color Purple that caused your breakdown?
What happened was that I was a producer on that movie and everybody went on vacation after we finished filming — everybody except me. I had to stay home and write an hour and 55 minutes of music for the movie. I was so fucking tired from doing that, I couldn’t see. I put too much on my plate and it took its toll. You learn from your mistakes and I learned I couldn’t do that again.
What’s the last mistake you learned from?
My last record [2010’s Q: Soul Bossa Nostra]. I was not in favor of doing it, but the rappers wanted to record something as a tribute to me, where they’d do versions of songs that I’d done over my career. I said to them, “Look, you got to make the music better than we did on the originals.” That didn’t happen. T-Pain, man, he didn’t pay attention to the details.
What’s something positive you’ve been feeling about music lately?
Understanding where it comes from. It’s fascinating. I was on a trip with Paul Allen a few years ago, and I went to the bathroom and there were maps on the wall of how the Earth looked a million-and-a-half years ago. Off the coast of South Africa, where Durban is, was the coast of China. The people had to be mixing, and you hear it in the music — in the drums from both places. There are African qualities to Chinese music, Japanese music, too, with the Kodo drumming. It all comes from Africa. It’s a heavy thing to think about.
You’re about to turn 85. Are you afraid of the end?
What do you think happens when you pass?
You’re just gone.
Are you religious?
No, man. I know too much about it. I knew Romano Mussolini, the jazz piano player, the son of Benito Mussolini. We used to jam all night. And he’d tell me about where the Catholics were coming from. The Catholics have a religion based on fear, smoke, and murder. And the biggest gimmick in the world is confession: “You tell me what you did wrong and it’ll be okay.” Come on. And almost everywhere you go in the world, the biggest structures are the Catholic churches. It’s money, man. It’s fucked up.
On the subject of money, I have a crass question. You spent the first half of your career working in jazz, which isn’t especially lucrative. When did you start to make serious money?
When I started producing after Lesley Gore. I was the first black vice-president at a record label [Mercury], which was great — except that meant they didn’t pay me for producing herJones had his first major pop successes — including 1963’s “It’s My Party” — producing a teenaged Lesley Gore for the Mercury label, where Jones was named a vice-president in 1964. . You know how they do; you know your country. But after that, in the ’70s, when I started producing for other artists, and then with Michael of course, that made me a lot of money. And big money came from TV producing — The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, that was huge for me. Mad TV was on for 14 years. That syndication money is great, man.
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