The distinguished man of music’s accolades and accomplishments span a number of decades, not just in the genres of jazz, R&B, and pop, but also in that sweet intersection of music, film, and television. In honor of his incomparable career, The Hollywood Reporter sat down with the 88 years young maestro for the launch of their new series, “THR Icon.”
“Legends like Quincy paved the way for many of the great artists we know today and introduced some of the most culture-defining songs of all time,” said Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Editorial Director, The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re thrilled to launch a new series that ascends beyond Hollywood’s current A-list and celebrates the trailblazers who helped make a difference in the industry.”
In the inaugural feature, Jones reflects on his motherless life journey, lessons learned about drug use from Billie Holiday, and having no desire to work with Elvis. “I was writing for [orchestra leader] Tommy Dorsey, oh God, back then in the ’50s. And Elvis came in, and Tommy said, ‘I don’t want to play with him.’ He was a racist mother — I’m going to shut up now. But every time I saw Elvis, he was being coached by [‘Don’t Be Cruel’ songwriter] Otis Blackwell, telling him how to sing.”
A lover of classical music with the rare gift of synesthesia, Jones talks about his film-scoring experience while navigating the racism-laden motion-picture industry in the ’60s. “They called me to do Gregory Peck’s Mirage [in 1965] and I came out here,” he said. “I was dressed in my favorite suit, and the producer came out to meet me at Universal. He stopped in his tracks — total shock — and he went back and told [music supervisor] Joe Gershenson, ‘You didn’t tell me Quincy Jones was a Negro.’ They didn’t use Black composers in films.
“They only used three-syllable Eastern European names, Bronislaw Kaper, Dimitri Tiomkin. It was very, very racist. I remember I would be at Universal walking down the hall, and the guys would say, ‘Here comes a shvartze‘ in Yiddish, and I know what that means. It’s like the N-word. And [screenwriter] Truman Capote, I did In Cold Blood, man. He called [director] Richard Brooks up, he said, ‘Richard, I can’t understand you using a Negro to write music to a film with no people of color in it.’ Richard said, ‘F**k you, he’s doing the score.’ I did, and I got nominated for an Oscar.”
In more light-hearted parts of the interview, Jones shares his love for astrology, how he managed to learn twenty-six languages, and how some of his entrepreneurial friends are trying to convince him to go to Mars. (Dope Fact: Jones’ first musical arrangement—Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon”—was played on the moon after Apollo 11 landed there for the first time in 1969.)
“Oh my God, I’m not going there,” he makes clear. “Richard Branson and Paul Allen and Elon [Musk] are trying to get me to go with them [to space]. He says, ‘It’s $250,000, I’m going to let you go free.’ Uh-uh…Are you crazy, man? You see that thing taking off?”
Read the full interview over at The Hollywood Reporter or in their May 19 issue.