QUINCY JONES PRE-THRILLER
Revisiting a 1982 interview with Q that has impacted me ever since #blackmusicmonth
In the spirng of 1982 I got an assignment from Musician magazine to go to Los Angeles and interview Quincy Jones. It was one of my first major gigs for what was then a very respected music driven magazine. Quincy was on a role, having produced Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, George Benson’s hit filled Give Me the Night LP, his own multi-Grammy award winning The Dude album, and was in the process of working with Donna Summer who, at the time, was the reigning pop diva of the early ‘80s.
We met at Westlake Studios near the Beverly Center, which was his creative home base from the late ‘70s into the mid-80s. This fall will be the 40th anniversary of the release of Thriller, the biggest selling album of all time, so I decided to revisit that conversation for black music month. It’s interesting to read his comments about working with Rod Temperton, the former Heatwave member, who became Q’s chief songwriter during that run of ‘80s platinum plus productions, and about Bruce Springsteen, who contributed a song to the Summer project. He mentions doing a session with Paul McCartney for the then untitled Jackson project, which would yield Thriller’s first single “The Girl Is Mine.” His prediction of Jackson’s stardom would prove prophetic, especially since at the time we spoke, Thriller was far from finished. His comments about the role of the Fender bass in changing music would become a key part of my book THE DEATH OF RHYTHM & BLUES.
Two things Quincy said have stuck with me in the forty years since we spoke. He uses the phrase “ass power,” which I have employed ever since. He doesn’t mean it sexually, but as having the determination to put your butt in the seat and getting work done. On whatever project I’ve worked on, be a book or tv series or documentary, I’ve stayed focused on being willing to sit and work, channeling creativity and passion, into the tedium of work. The other idea is having as much enthusiasm for a project at the end as the beginning. It’s so easy to get burnt out on a project, to start with great energy and then to have the daily grind sap that out of you. You can get lost in a project and forget why you started it in the first place.
Quincy’s career is a testament to seeing something all the way through to the end and working with collaborators who lift you and inspire you. Sure everyone isn’t gonna collaborate with Donna Summer, Michael Jackson or Paul McCartney. But talent of that statue seeks out like minded collaborators who’ll bring, both a deep commitment to a project along with their talent.
To read the full 1982 interview with Quincy Jones purchase a copy of THE NELSON GEORGE MIXTAPE at www.pacificpacific.pub.