Quincy Jones took the time to rack his brain a bit, sharing some deep-seeded memories of his encounters with legends like Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson. In a candid sit-down with Rolling Stone‘s Gavin Edwards, the industry luminary and innovator spoke to who originally dubbed him “Q,” what he was able to absorb from the musical genius of Uncle Ray and how he and MJ first came to work with one another. Below you can find some compelling excerpts from the exchange, but for the full scoop, head on over to RS and get a few more lines from the exalted brilliance of one Quincy Delight Jones.
What he learned from Ray Charles :
“Well, everything. We met when I was 14 years old and he was 17. He used to teach me stuff in braille. He sang back then, like Nat Cole and Charles Brown, and he played alto like Charlie Parker. There was a lot of racism going on in the Forties, but every day we used to say to the world, “Not one drop of my self-worth depends on your opinion of me.”
His work with Frank Sinatra and the origins of Q:
“I was living in France and one day they said, “Grace Kelly’s office called, and Mr. Sinatra wants you to bring a 55-piece orchestra down to Monte Carlo for a benefit.” We took a train down and at the end of the show, he said, “Great job, kid, koo-koo.” I didn’t hear from him for four years and then he called me and said, “Hey, Q, this is Francis, I’m in Hawaii directing a film called None But the Brave. I heard the record you did last year with Basie.” It was a waltz – I did it in 4/4 with Basie so it would swing. He said, “That’s the way I like to do it too. Would you consider doing an album with Basie and me?” I said hell to the yeah, went over to Hawaii, and I didn’t leave Frank until he left earth.”
Meeting Michael Jackson and beginning their work together:
“We started to work on The Wiz when he was about 19. He said, “I need a producer for my album,” seeing if I had a personal interest in working with him. I said, “Michael, I don’t want to talk about nothing but the film.” But I was trying to find things that he hadn’t done before. I had this song “She’s Out of My Life” that Tommy Bahler wrote when his wife left him. I was saving that for Sinatra, but I said, “I want to try this with Michael, ’cause he’s never had a real life experience, a genuine relationship with a woman.” I saw him at the Oscars one year – he was doing “Ben,” this romantic love story to a rat! So I gave the song to him, and every time we recorded it, he cried.”