Elvis Was ‘A Racist,’ And Other Eye-Popping Moments From Quincy Jones’ Interview

If Quincy Jones isn’t on your list of musical G.O.A.T.s, you need to re-examine your list. Being a good storyteller comes with the whole legend thing, and the Grammy award-winning producer, composer and artist has plenty. Jones has been given the mantle of “THR Icon” by The Hollywood Reporter, and in his signature ‘tell it like it is’ style, he recounts some pretty interesting details about his career, famous friends, and who he has refused to work with.  

On Billie Holiday

Jones says he worked with Billie Holiday when he was just 14-years-old, and was “awestruck” by her. He said he learned a lot from the legendary songstress, including what not to do before a performance. 

“Oh my God, stay away from heroin,” said Jones. “She could barely get to the stage, man. She could barely walk on the stage.”

On Racism and George Floyd

Jones has always been a fighter for civil rights, working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his Chicago campaign and joining the board of Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition (People United to Save Humanity). He says the racial reckoning from the George Floyd protests is a long time coming. 

“People have been turning their heads the other way, but it’s all the same to me—misogyny, racism. You have to be taught how to hate somebody. It doesn’t come naturally.” 

On Why He Wouldn’t Work with Elvis 

Jones didn’t hold back when asked about Elvis Presley, calling him “a racist mother — I’m going to shut up now.” 

It’s not the first time Elvis has been hit with claims of racism. Much of his style and catalogue has been blasted as appropriation at best, and straight up theft of Black artist’s work at worst. His biggest hit, Hound Dog, was first recorded by Big Mama Thornton in 1952.

On His Frayed Relationship with His Mother

Jones had a rough upbringing in Chicago, telling THR that his mother was put in a state hospital when he was 7-years-old for a condition now known as schizophrenia. He attributes his friendly nature to the feeling that he “never had a mother,” and he’s “been trying to find one since then.” He also claims she tried to sabotage his career by threatening to sue Universal over his first film-scoring job. 

“She thought that jazz music is for the devil. But nothing could stop me, man. Jazz was my mother.”

His Affinity for Astrology and Space

Many guys couldn’t tell you what their zodiac sign is, but Jones is in tune with his entire astrological chart. “I’m Pisces, Leo rising and a Scorpio moon. Everything I need,” he told THR. “I’ve had Leo girlfriends, boy oh boy. They don’t play.”

He learned astrology from astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.  He combined his love for what’s beyond the stars with his music, holding the honor of writing the first track ever played on the moon with Frank Sinatra. The name is pretty on the nose. 

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On Oprah and The Color Purple

If it wasn’t for Quincy Jones, Oprah wouldn’t have made her film debut in The Color Purple. Jones took his step into Hollywood when he produced the critically acclaimed drama and tapped the talk show host to play Miss Sofia. But he experienced a lot of racism in his fight to make the movie a reality. 

“We did pretty good, too. They kept saying a Black picture can only do $30 million… We did $143 million.”

He Knows a Lot of Languages

26 to be exact, including Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Turkish and Arabic. But he didn’t take any fancy classes to pick up these skills, he just “talked” to a lot of women.

“I produced the Beijing Olympics in 2008,” he told THR. “One of my girlfriends used to be married to royalty over there.” A whole flex. 

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