Quincy Jones Opens Up

The music legend on the secret Michael Jackson, his relationship with the Trumps, and the problem with modern pop. By David Marchese


In both music and manner, Quincy Jones has always registered — from afar, anyway — as smooth, sophisticated, and impeccably well-connected. (That’s what earning 28 Grammy awards and co-producing Michael Jackson’s biggest-selling albums will do.) But in person, the 84-year-old music-industry macher is far spikier and more complicated. “All I’ve ever done is tell the truth,” says Jones, seated on a couch in his palatial Bel Air home, and about to dish some outrageous gossip. “I’ve got nothing to be scared of, man.”

Currently in the midst of an extended victory lap ahead of his turning 85 in March — a Netflix documentary and a CBS special hosted by Oprah Winfrey are on the horizon — Jones, dressed in a loose sweater, dark slacks, and a jaunty scarf, talks like he has nothing to lose. He name-drops, he scolds, he praises, and he tells (and retells) stories about his very famous friends. Even when his words are harsh, he says them with an enveloping charm, frequently leaning over for fist bumps and to tap me on the knee. “The experiences I’ve had!” he says, shaking his head in wonder. “You almost can’t believe it.”


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 Independence” and “Billie Jean.” The notes don’t lie, man. He was as Machiavellian as they come.


How so?

Greedy, man. Greedy. “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” — Greg Phillinganes wrote the c section. 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 him. 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, 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.


Like what secrets?

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?



I was at the Massey Hall show.



Culled From Vulture.com

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