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He died a playboy’s death in 1965 at the age of 56: After an all-nighter at a Paris nightclub in celebration of a polo victory, he drove his silver Ferrari into a horse chestnut tree. Musicians who have played for, and know, say, Clinton or Obama may be ten a penny these days, but how many others can also say, for instance, that they played—at the age of 19 as a trumpet player with Lionel Hampton’s big band (his first regular professional job)—at Dwight Eisenhower’s inaugural in 1953?
All over the world."A few minutes later he shows me photos of some of his children: "When you've been a dog all your life, God gives you beautiful daughters and you have to suffer. They're here all the time.""I don't know. And the big bands, that's like the school of the dogs. Every fucking night it was like the girls coming through Neiman Marcus: ' Oh, I like trumpet players,' ' I like sax players,' ' I like guitar players'… Porfirio Rubirosa Ariza was a Dominican diplomat, sportsman, and playboy famous for dating many of the most famous and richest women of his era. ' I said, ' God, let me out of there.' ""Yeah, but she was always sabotaging it. She didn't want to know about that shit." He laughs. Even when it comes to politics, the range of Jones’s access and experience is hard to believe.
And because each sentence from his mouth comes out sounding like a benediction, it takes a while to register that the word the 84-year-old Quincy Jones uses more than any other, as a term of both endearment and opprobrium, is Mostly we talk about the past, naturally, and we get there soon enough. I stay at his castle in Dublin, because Ireland and Scotland are so racist it's frightening.
My daughter Kidada calls me LL QJ—Loose Lips"), but it doesn't really seem to stem the flow. Sinatra and Ray Charles, them motherfuckers invented partying." Jones shows me the ring on his little finger. I said, ' Oh, my man's got some pimp shoes on.' And he heard me." and Bono said, ' Quincy said he had some lovely loafers on.' [Bono]'s a great guy.
Jones is one of just a handful of people who have accomplished the EGOT—winner of at least one Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Jones first met Miles Davis when Jones was 18, and they later collaborated. His mother was taken away when he was 7—"to a mental home," he says, "for dementia praecox." His father, also called Quincy Jones, worked as a carpenter (8) for, as his son now puts it, "the most notorious gangsters on the planet, the Jones boys." It was rough and scary, and the only promising option that a young boy living within it could envision was becoming a gangster himself: "The '30s in Chicago, man. Tommy guns and stogies, stacks of wine and liquor, big piles of money in back rooms, that's all I ever saw. Fucking South Side of Chicago, they don't play, man. Seven years old, I went to the wrong neighborhood, I didn't know the codes and stuff. He met his ﬁrst wife, Jeri Caldwell, in high school. I didn't listen to all the advice." He laughs again."Well, my daughters gave me new numbers, because they kept saying, ' Dad, you can't go out with girls younger than us.' I said, ' Y'all are not young anymore.…' So the new numbers are 28 to 42. (Jones helped connect them.) Or he'll refer to the time Steven Spielberg showed him the first abandoned prototype for E. Every week we'd have two or three dinners with Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin and all those cats.
"It seems like at 84 all the things you used to wonder about come clear to you."So he begins. It's a life punctuated by so many disparate encounters and achievements and circumstances that it is hard to believe they are the experiences of a single man. There is the career, of course: the jazz musician, the arranger, the record executive, the soundtrack composer, the solo artist, the producer of the biggest pop album in history, the entrepreneur, the media magnate, the film and TV producer, the philanthropist…and on and on. He either loved you with all of his heart or else he'd roll over your ass in a Mack truck in reverse. He'd get drunk, and Jilly, his right-hand guy, stone gangster, would get behind him and break the guy's ribs. ' Miles (5) said the same thing, on a different occasion, at the Chateau Marmont. "They say coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous."5. Oprah (6) had my Jones spent his early years on the South Side of Chicago. Guys hanging off of telephone poles with ice picks in their necks, man. (He has six girls and one boy.) His second and third marriages were to actresses: Ulla Andersson and Lipton. I ended up with two actresses, Peggy Lipton and Nastassja Kinski (9), and a superstar model. So he'll refer to the time Nelson Mandela tried to get him to touch a cheetah—"I couldn't do it"—and then he'll mention that Colin Powell called a couple of days ago because Powell was annoyed at how Tyler Perry appeared to be portraying him in a forthcoming movie.
And in Paris to this day, you go to Chez L' Ami Louis, the waiter will come over to you with a pepper shaker and say, ' Here's your Rubirosa.' He always used to say, ' Quincy, it's by the head, not the bed.
But it's characteristic of his spirit that as he sits down he is already telling me about his present and his future: "I never been this busy in my life. He said, ' Trying, Quincy, to assimilate, but it's not coming easy.' So I stay in his castle."Jones exudes positivity about most of the people he has known, but not all of them, and he is not above Schadenfreude.
Someone once compared his omnipresence to Forrest Gump's; Jones has heard this one, but he prefers a further twist on it: "the Ghetto Gump."He worries often that he'll say too much ("I always get in trouble, you know. "He had on some burgundy wingtips, man, with thin tan rib socks, man. And when I kissed his hand, I looked down and saw those shoes and it just fell out of my mouth.
It's also a testament to his unique gift for not just knowing people but also sharing unforgettable moments with them. Jones met Charles in Seattle when Jones was 14 and Charles was 16; he was 25 when he met Sinatra, and worked as arranger on some of his most famous records. (When I ask to use the bathroom, Jones replies, “I got 13—when you’re 84, you gotta take no chances.”) a movie he produced and for which she was nominated for an Academy Award, after spotting her on local TV in Chicago. Thriller was the second of the three Michael Jackson albums Jones produced, after "Right. "All the guys in the Vatican had these Vatican black shoes," Jones recalls, but not the Pope.
When Jones says that he "lost 66 friends last year" and begins to list recent departures—"David Bowie, George Martin…"—it's more than an acknowledgment of some recent rough years. “Let me show you that big one, because you can’t notice the nasty on this right away. Crazy motherfucker, but he was a talented man.” Another, smaller painting is one of Jones’s bathrooms. That's what you wanted to do so you could protect yourself. "And they stuck an ice pick"—he points to his left temple—"in here, the same time." Fucking right it did! That's why the second one had blue eyes." Or the occasion in May 2007, when Oprah brought Barack and Michelle Obama 'round to this house in an attempt, unsuccessful at the time, to woo Jones away from his friends the Clintons. "And we sat down in the kitchen, and for six hours…a really heavy meeting." (12) As another aside, he'll let slip that he saw Stevie Wonder last night: "Stevie and I are doing a lot of shit together." Or he'll say, pretty much apropos of nothing at all, "You run into amazing people—I'm thinking back to Norman Mailer, man. Then he'll gesture to the Space X model rocket across the room, over toward the library. "Bezos—the richest motherfucker in the world now."He pulls out a book published a few years ago filled with photos and memories from his life, and he tells me about the time Bono invited him to come along to the Vatican in 1999 to meet Pope John Paul.
(1) But these seem almost trivial and incidental alongside the actual life he's lived. Jones also has several of Davis’s libidinous paintings in his house. Like, what's the most prominent instrument in the symphony orchestra? Harlem and Compton don't mean shit after Chicago in the '30s—they look like Boys Town to me. There's something in the water, man.""Hell yeah. Because it was frightening, and every day you never knew what was happening. Big gangs on every street.""Oh, they grabbed me, and they took a switchblade knife and nailed my hand to the fence right there." He points to a scar he's had on his hand for 77 years. T.: "They made that little monster, and he looked too much like a brother. " And smiles at memories that the rest of us can and should never know. Jeffrey Bezos." Jones makes a kind of exhalation noise.