In continuing to make press rounds leading up to his Netflix documentary and CBS special, Quincy Jones recently got together with Vulture for an in-depth interview. During the conversation, the 84-year-old music legend dished on everything from Michael Jackson stealing music, to the problem with modern pop, and even his relationship with the Trumps, specifically Ivanka.
Below we've in turn highlighted the best quotes from Jones' entertaining new interview, also centering around racism and feminism in America, his appreciation for jazz, the Beatles, rap, and much more.
On working with Michael Jackson:
"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."
On Michael Jackson outside of music:
"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."
On Michael Jackson's problems:
"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?"
On when he first heard rock music:
"Rock ain’t nothing but a white version of rhythm and blues, motherfucker. You know, I met Paul McCartney when he was 21."
On his first impression of the Beatles:
"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."
On the state of the U.S.:
"We’re the worst we’ve ever been, but that’s why we’re seeing people try and fix it. Feminism: Women are saying they’re not going to take it anymore. Racism: People are fighting it. God is pushing the bad in our face to make people fight back."
On the one problem he would fix in the country:
"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."
On what stirred up everything in the U.S.:
"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."
On dating Ivanka Trump:
"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."
On Oprah running 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."
On what he's most proud of musically:
"That anything I can feel, I can notate musically. Not many people can do that. I can make a band play like a singer sings. That’s what arranging is, and it’s a great gift. I wouldn’t trade it for shit."
On rap being 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 innovation in modern pop music:
"It’s just loops, beats, rhymes and hooks. What is there for me to learn from that? There ain’t no fucking songs. The song is the power; the singer is the messenger. The greatest singer in the world cannot save a bad song. I learned that 50 years ago, and it’s the single greatest lesson I ever learned as a producer. If you don’t have a great song, it doesn’t matter what else you put around it."
On who's doing good work musically:
"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 a future for the music business:
"There isn’t a music business anymore! If these people had paid attention to Shawn Fanning 20 years ago, we wouldn’t be in this mess. But the music business is still too full of these old-school bean counters. You can’t be like that. You can’t be one of these back-in-my-day people."
On the the most ambitious thing he has left to do:
"Qwest TV. Everybody is excited about it. It’s going to be a musical Netflix. It’s the best music from every genre around the world. So if kids want to hear something great, it’ll be right there for them. I can’t believe I still get to be involved in things like this. I stopped drinking two years ago and I feel like I’m 19 years old. I’ve never been so creative. I can’t tell you, man — what a life!"
Be sure to head over to Vulture for the entire conversation with Quincy Jones.
Also, don't miss out on these great excerpts from Quincy's recent 'GQ' interview.