Musician and producer Quincy Jones is in the habit of speaking before he thinks. Three years after his daughters staged an intervention about his “wordvomit” interviews, the 88-year-old legend had a wild new conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, bemoaning the heroin habits of Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday, reminiscing fondly about Marie Osmond’s “booty,” and explaining why he refused to work with Elvis Presley: “He was a racist.”
The topic of Presley’s prejudice came out of a broader conversation about Michael Jackson. Jones recalled how MJ had studied other performers in order to prepare for The Wiz, saying “He knew how to do his homework, whether it was with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly or whoever, James Brown. He was doing some Elvis copying, too. “The King of Pop,” man. Come on!”
Afterwards, the interviewer asked if Jones had ever collaborated with Elvis. “No. I wouldn’t work with him,” Jones replied. “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.”
Of course, as previously discussed, Jones doesn’t aim, he shoots from the hip. He added that, “Every time I saw Elvis, he was being coached by [Black singer/songwriter] Otis Blackwell, telling him how to sing.” It should be noted, Blackwell mentioned to David Letterman that he and Presley had never met. But even if Jones’ recollections are less than accurate, that only cements his place as music’s most belovedly bonkers historian.
Elsewhere, he recalled the bigotry of Truman Capote, saying, “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, ‘Fuck you, he’s doing the score.’ I did, and I got nominated for an Oscar.”
He also explained that the chief lesson he learned from Billie Holiday is, “stay away from heroin,” remembered trying to “cop some hemp” with Charlie Parker, only to be abandoned as The Bird used heroin, and talked about refusing to work with Donny Osmond after Osmond revealed their collaboration to Oprah. “He went on The Oprah Winfrey Show and talked about it, and I dropped it because he told her we were doing the record,” he said, adding, “Marie was cute, though. A lot of booty. (Says something in Russian.)”
Check out the full interview if you so desire, or revisit the times that Jones blasted Taylor Swift’s songwriting abilities, called The Beatles “no-playing motherfuckers,” and revealed that actor Marlon Brando and comedian Richard Pryor had once slept together — which Pryor’s widow later confirmed.