Quincy Jones has done just about everything in his storied, 28 Grammy-winning, nearly 70-year career in the music industry. So, when you’re rounding third and headed for home there’s just no time for being polite anymore.
After a recent GQ interview in which he torched Taylor Swift (among many others), Q sat down with Vulture recently for another scorched-earth chat, in which he opened up about his fruitful time working with Michael Jackson (who he described as “greedy” and “Machiavellian”) pulled back the curtain on who really killed JFK (a Chicago mob thing), slammed the early Beatles as terrible musicians and referred to Pres. Trump as “a crazy motherfucker.”
And that’s only half of it. Read on for some of the high points:
On Michael Jackson, whose best-selling Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad albums he co-produced:
“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’ [a 1982 song Jackson sang backing vocals on and whose bass part sounds similar to ‘Billie Jean’] 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’ … [keyboardist] Greg Phillinganes wrote the C section. Michael should’ve given him 10 percent of the song. Wouldn’t do it.”
[Jones also said he used to get on Jackson about his reported multiple plastic surgeries, which he said the singer would often explain away “because of some disease he had. Bullshit.”]
On the secrets he knows about who really killed Pres. Kennedy:
“[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.”
On being unimpressed when he first heard rock, especially the young Beatles:
“Rock ain’t nothing but a white version of rhythm and blues, motherfucker. You know, I met Paul McCartney when he was 21. [His first impression of the Beatles]… 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.”
On the unlikely pal who sings and plays just like Jimi Hendrix:
“[Microsoft co-founder] Paul Allen… I went on a trip on his yacht, and he had David Crosby, Joe Walsh, Sean Lennon — all those crazy motherfuckers. Then on the last two days, Stevie Wonder came on with his band and made Paul come up and play with him — he’s good, man.”
On who his rich friends care about:
“The rich aren’t doing enough. They don’t fucking care. I came from the street, and I care about these kids who don’t have enough because I feel I’m one of ’em. These other people don’t know what it feels like to be poor, so they don’t care.”
On his thoughts about the #MeToo movement and the revelations about sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment industry, including those against his longtime friend Bill Cosby:
“Women had to put up with fucked-up shit. Women and brothers — we’re both dealing with the glass ceiling… It was all of them. Brett Ratner. [Harvey] Weinstein. Weinstein — he’s a jive motherfucker. Wouldn’t return my five calls. A bully.” [Despite his seeming open-lips policy, Jones said “we can’t talk about this in public, man” when it came to Cosby.]
On what problem he would fix if he could and his feelings about Trumpism:
“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… 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.” [Jones claims he went on a date with then-“fine motherfucker” 24 year-old Ivanka, after being introduced by Tommy Hilfiger.]
On why another friend, Oprah, shouldn’t run for 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… A symphony conductor knows more about how to lead than most businesspeople — more than Trump does. He doesn’t know shit. Someone who knows about real leadership wouldn’t have as many people against him as he does. He’s a fucking idiot.
On why he’s not impressed with hip-hop, which he once reportedly dissed as “a bunch of four-bar loops”:
“That’s true about rap, that it’s the same phrase over and over and over again. The ear has to have the melody groomed for it; you have to keep the ear candy going because the mind turns off when the music doesn’t change. Music is strange that way. You’ve got to keep the ear busy.”
On who he does like in today’s modern pop:
“Bruno Mars. Chance the Rapper. Kendrick Lamar. I like where Kendrick’s mind is. He’s grounded. Chance, too. And the Ed Sheeran record is great. Sam Smith — he’s so open about being gay. I love it. Mark Ronson is someone who knows how to produce.”
On his greatest musical innovation:
“Everything I’ve done.”
To read the entire interview, including footnotes, click here.