Legendary music producer Quincy Jones has been on somewhat of a celebratory press tour ahead of his 85th birthday in March.
With seven decades of experience in the music industry, a record 79 Grammy nominations, producing the highest-selling album of all-time in Thriller, Quincy Jones is one of the most influential figures in modern music.
He’s done it all, from jazz, pop, bossa nova, soul, big band, R&B, and rock.
Now, with a Netflix documentary and an Oprah-hosted CBS special lined up in anticipation of his birthday, Jones is out here spilling the wildest drama and opinions in a series of recent interviews.
Quincy Jones is spilling tea like pic.twitter.com/CQev65AkfZ
— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) February 7, 2018
Last week, he divulged to GQ that he has 22 girlfriends, Taylor Swift is trash, Malcolm X was everyone’s heroin dealer, and Prince and Michael Jackson had beef. Now, in an interview with Vulture, Jones somehow went even further.
Here’s a selection of the wildest quotes from the messiest interview of all-time.
Michael Jackson stole his music
Jones produced extensively for Michael Jackson, including the records Thriller, Off The Wall, and Bad, but he claimed that MJ took melodies from other artists:
“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 Independence’ and ‘Billie Jean.’ The notes don’t lie, man. He was as Machiavellian as they come.”
Sheesh. It may come as no coincidence that Jones won a suit against the Jackson estate last year and was awarded $9.4 million in unpaid royalties.
Quincy Jones knows who killed JFK
While talking about his friends the Clintons, Jones began to discuss secrets, which led to the following exchange (interviewer questions in bold):
“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] Giancana. 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?”
Case solved! The best parts of this interview are Jones’ quick segues. “I know who killed JFK… so where are you from?” Absolute gold.
The Beatles were “worst musicians in the world”
On the subject of rock music, Jones was quick to say it ain’t shit, “Rock ain’t nothing but a white version of rhythm and blues, motherfucker. You know, I met Paul McCartney when he was 21.”
When the interviewer asked him his impression of The Beatles, Jones went in.
“That they were the worst musicians in the world. They were no-playing motherfuckers. Paul was the worst bass player I ever heard. And Ringo? Don’t even talk about it. I remember once we were in the studio with George Martin, and Ringo had taken three hours for a four-bar thing he was trying to fix on a song. He couldn’t get it. We said, ‘Mate, why don’t you get some lager and lime, some shepherd’s pie, and take an hour-and-a-half and relax a little bit.’ So he did, and we called Ronnie Verrell, a jazz drummer. Ronnie came in for 15 minutes and tore it up. Ringo comes back and says, ‘George, can you play it back for me one more time?’ So George did, and Ringo says, ‘That didn’t sound so bad.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, motherfucker because it ain’t you.’ Great guy, though.”
Great guy, though!
Quincy dated Ivanka Trump twelve years ago
After going off on the racism that Trump has inspired, Jones revealed a rather interesting tidbit, “[Trump]’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 Kidada, 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.”
Everything he’s ever done has been big
This isn’t even as groundbreaking or dramatic as most of what Jones says in this interview but the following exchange is amazing:
What’s something you’ve worked on that should’ve been bigger?
“What the fuck are you talking about? I’ve never had that problem. They were all big.”
“God walks out of the room when you’re thinking about money”
When asked whether he saw “the spirit of jazz” in contemporary pop music, Jones was quick to give that a quick “nah.”
“No. People gave it up to chase money. When you go after Cîroc vodka and Phat Farm and all that shit, God walks out of the room. I have never in my life made music for money or fame. Not even Thriller. No way. God walks out of the room when you’re thinking about money. You could spend a million dollars on a piano part and it won’t make you a million dollars back. That’s just not how it works.”
The proudest moment of his career
Jones explained the impact of seeing three different women from three different generations were affected by his music:
“It was the first time they celebrated Dr. King’s birthday in Washington, D.C., and Stevie Wonder was in charge and asked me to be musical director. After the performance, we went to a reception, and three ladies came over: The older lady had Sinatra at the Sands, I arranged that; her daughter had my album The Dude; and then that lady’s daughter had Thriller. Three generations of women said those were their favorite records. That touched me so much.”
Musicians aren’t doing enough research
One of Quincy Jones’ main gripes with pop music these days is the lack of depth. To Jones, people aren’t learning enough about their craft and looking to world music.
“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?”
Marlon Brando smashed everyone, including James Baldwin, Richard Pryor, and Marvin Gaye
I have nothing to add to the following exchange:
“[Marlon] Brando 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?”
“You like Brazilian music?” QUINCY JONES IS THE GREATEST.
How geography influences music
While this interview is amazing for the drama, reading Quincy Jones’ thoughts on music and culture is fascinating:
“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.”
Jones isn’t religious because of conversations with Mussolini’s son
Although Jones seems to reference God and religion a lot in conversation, when asked whether he was religious, he explained that Romano Mussolini (who is obviously his friend) turned him away from the Church:
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.”
Quincy Jones is my hero.