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Musician, Producer, Arranger, Composer Quincy Jones

He celebrates his 70th birthday today. In his 50-year career he's worked with just about anyone who is anybody in the music business. As a teenager he played backup for Billie Holiday, along with his 16-year-old friend, Ray Charles. At 18 he began playing the trumpet in Lionel Hampton's band beside Clifford Brown. He went on to work with Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn, Lesley Gore and many others. He wrote the theme songs for the TV shows Sanford & Son and Ironside, and music for the films In Cold Blood, For the Love of Ivy and The Pawnbroker. His biggest commercial success was producing and arranging Michael Jackson's 1982 hit album Thriller. This interview first aired November 5, 2001.


Other segments from the episode on March 14, 2003

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 14, 2003: Interview with Quincy Jones; Review of the reissue of Clifford Jordan and John Gilmore's "Blowing in From Chicago."


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Quincy Jones talks about his career as a musician,
producer, arranger and composer

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev.

Today we celebrate the 70th birthday of Quincy Jones. He started his career
as a trumpeter in Lionel Hampton's big band in the early '50s, but he never
became a noted instrumentalist. What made him famous and wealthy was his work
as an arranger, composer, producer and media mogul, work that spans the big
bands through bebop, pop, movie soundtracks, TV themes and hip-hop. He's
arranged or produced recordings for Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Aretha
Franklin, Dinah Washington, George Benson, James Ingram and Ice-T, and he
produced the Michael Jackson megahit "Thriller." In 2001, Quincy Jones
published his memoir called "Q" with a companion four-CD box set featuring him
as a trumpeter, arranger, composer and producer. Here's a sampling.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Another bride, another June, another sunny
honeymoon, another season, another reason for making whoopee.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Look at me, I'm as helpless as a kitten up a
tree, and I feel like I'm clinging to a cloud I can't understand. I get misty
just holding your hand. Walk my way...

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) I never cared much for moonlit skies. I never
wink back at fireflies. But now that the stars are in your eyes, I'm
beginning to see the light. I never went in for...

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. FRANK SINATRA: (Singing) Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars
and let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars. In other words, hold
my hand; in other words, baby, kiss me.

(Soundbite of various instrumentals)

(Soundbite of "Beat It")

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON: (Singing) They told us, `Don't you ever come around
here. Don't want to see your face, you better disappear.' The fire's in
their eyes and their words are really clear, so beat it. But you want to be
bad. Just beat it, beat it, beat it...

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Group: Back, back on the block.

Backup Singers: Do-whoa-oh. Do-wa-da-nay-oh-oh.

Unidentified Group: Back, back on the block.

Back Singers: Do-whoa-oh. Do-wa-da-nay-oh-oh.

Unidentified Group: I'm back on the block so we can rock with soul, rhythm
and blues. You got to hip-hop back on the block.

Backup Singers: Do-whoa-oh. Do-wa-da-nay-oh-oh.

Unidentified Group: Back on the block.

Unidentified Man: Ice-T, let me kick my credentials. A young player bred in
South Central.

BOGAEV: A sampling of tracks from Quincy Jones' four-CD retrospective "Q,"
the same title as his autobiography.

One of the first musicians he became good friends with was Ray Charles. They
met when Charles was 16 and Jones was 14. Terry asked how.

Mr. QUINCY JONES (Musician; Producer; Arranger; Composer): I think it was at
the Elks Club, Terry, where after we played two jobs--we'd worked from 7 to 10
in the white tennis clubs and the--well, we'd play popular music of the day,
"To Each His Own" and "Room Full of Roses." And then at 10:00, we'd go play
the black clubs, The Black and Tan, The Rocking Chair and the Washington
Educational and Social Club. And we played for strippers. We sang.


Oh, really?

Mr. JONES: We had choreography. We had everything. As kids, we were pretty
cocky because we had a great band. We could read music very well. And we did
everything. We played with Billie Holiday in '48, behind her. And then in
'49, we played with Billy Eckstine and Cab Calloway and all the bands that
came through, so we were pretty confident in those days.

GROSS: You said that you admired Ray Charles' independence. He was 16 years
old. He was blind. But he had his own apartment, he got around town himself,
he had a girlfriend; I mean, he had a lot of things that you wanted.

Mr. JONES: Yes, he did. He had his own apartment, too, and two suits. It
was amazing. But I guess what impressed me the most with Ray is that he was
so independent, and his sightlessness did not hinder him at all. It's one of
the treasured, cherished friendships that I really have, because as kids we
used to talk about everything. He showed me how to write music in braille,
Dizzy Gillespie songs like "Emanon" and bebop, etc. And we used to dream
about the future, like `Wouldn't it be great to work with a symphony
orchestra? One day we're going to do that. One day we're going to have three
girlfriends each,' you know? `One day we're do movies together.' We're going
to do all of that stuff, and we did it. And that's what's amazing. We did,
you know, "In the Heat of the Night" together. And we did "We Are The World,"
all of those things. Everything--the girls. So we did--it's amazing to dream
and have your dreams executed like that, you know?

GROSS: Well, I thought I'd play a 1959 recording that you arranged for Ray
Charles, and this is from "The Genius of Ray Charles" album, which was
recorded in 1959. We're going to hear "Let the Good Times Roll." Would you
like to say anything about this track?

Mr. JONES: I would just like to add that we had half of Count Basie's band
on that session, and half of Duke Ellington's band on that session. And in
those days, that's when I first started to work with Phil Ramone, the
engineer, who's now producer. And Ahmed Ertegun, Nesuhi Ertegun and Jerry
Wexler came by, because in those days what you heard was what you got. It
wasn't about fixing in the mix. There was nothing to mix, because it was
mono. And we went in the booth to listen to a playback of that tune--I
remember this very vividly--and when it was playing back, I said, `What's
that, Phil?' And he said that there was something coming out of the left
speaker and a different thing coming out of the right speaker. He said it's
called stereophonic sound. Never forgot it. Because I had heard it earlier
in Portland--put on earphones. It was called binaural sound by the man that
invented stereo.

GROSS: This is Ray Charles' arrangement by Quincy Jones, "Let the Good Times

(Soundbite of "Let the Good Times Roll")

Mr. RAY CHARLES: (Singing) Hey, everybody, let's have some fun, you only live
but once, and when you're dead, you're done, so let the good times roll. I
said, `Let the good times roll.' I don't care if you're young or old, you
ought to get together and let the good times roll. Don't sit there mumbling,
talking trash, if you want to have a ball, you got to go out and spend some
cash, and let the good times roll now. I'm talking about the good times.
Well, it makes no difference whether you're young or old, all you got to do is
get together and let the good times roll.

GROSS: Ray Charles recorded in 1959 from the album "The Genius of Ray
Charles." The arrangement is by my guest, Quincy Jones. He has a new
autobiography. Quincy Jones also has a new four-CD box set that spans his
whole career.

Your first important music job was with the Lionel Hampton big band. You got
that job while you were still in high school. How did he hire you when you
were still in school?

Mr. JONES: Well, I had written a suite that I'd been working on for a long
time called "From The Four Winds," and it was almost a descriptive piece. And
I didn't understand theory too well then, but I just went straight--it didn't
stop me from writing. I didn't understand key signatures or anything, you
know. I'd say silly things at the top of a trumpet part like `Note: When you
play B naturals, make the B naturals a half step lower because they sound
funny if they're B naturals.' And some guy said, `Idiot, just put a flat on
the third line and it's a key signature,' you know? Because it didn't bother
me that I didn't understand that, because I knew eventually I'd learn it.

And so I gave this arrangement to--submitted this to Lionel Hampton. And he
said, `You wrote this, huh?' I said, `Yeah.' He said, `Play the trumpet,
too?' I said, `Yeah.' Well, he said, `How'd you like to join my band,
please?' `Are you kidding?' And so they had little brown leather bags for
your trumpet then. I had that and just very few toilet articles and so forth.
And I went and sat on that bus so nobody would change their mind, and I
wouldn't have to ask the people at home whether I could go or not. And sure
enough, everybody got on one by one. Hamp said, `Hi,' and I felt secure.
Then Gladys Hampton got on the bus and says, `Uh-uh. What is that child doing
on this bus?' And she said, `No, son, you get off the bus.' And said, `We
will try to talk later, but you go to school.' And I was destroyed.

And so I got a scholarship to Boston--to the Berklee College of Music and I
got the call. A friend named Janet Thurlow was singing with the band and she
reminded them, and they called and said, `We'd like you to be with the band.'
I was 18 then and I was ready. And I told the school I'd be back, but I guess
down inside, you know, when you go with a band like that you never go back.

GROSS: Now you say that you were afraid that when you were playing with
Hampton that Parker or Thelonious Monk might show up in the audience, and you
were worried they'd laugh at what you had to wear in the band. What did you
have to wear in the Hampton band?

Mr. JONES: Well, that incident happened when we were playing at a place on
Broadway right next door to Birdland; I mean, totally like adjacent. And both
places were downstairs. And we had to wear Tyrolean hats, purple shawl collar
coats and Bermuda shorts.

GROSS: Bermuda shorts, why?

Mr. JONES: Oh, my God, the whole band. And...

GROSS: Why did you have to wear shorts?

Mr. JONES: Well, I don't know. That's just Hamp's idea. But he--Hamp was
like a rock 'n' roll band. He was the first rock 'n' roll band, because he
attacked an audience like a rock 'n' roll band; no prisoners, and he knew how
to get them, too. He put...

GROSS: Well, some of the tenor solos are almost like a rock 'n' roll band,
too; yeah.

Mr. JONES: Yes. In the theaters, they'd walk--they had thin-soled shoes.
They'd walk over the audience's heads with these thin-soled shoes on top of
their chairs, you know. It was absolutely incredible. And he had this sense
of show business, but he had a lot of music in the band, because, you know,
they had people like Wes Montgomery and Charlie Mingus and Fats Navarro and
Clifford Brown--amazing musicians in the band. And I loved Hampton for having
that ambidexterity because he liked great music, but he also liked to level
his audience and take no prisoners. Until they were wrung out, he was not

GROSS: So did any of your bebop friends end up seeing you in that band that

Mr. JONES: Well, that particular night, he had his favorite thing he'd like
to do. He'd have everybody--he'd get his drumsticks and start a whole line,
almost like a conga line. The saxophone section would follow him around the
audience, and he'd go around and beat the drumsticks on everybody's table.
The trumpets and trombones were right behind him playing "Flying Home." Then
he'd go upstairs. I said, `Oh, my God.' Clifford Brown and I said, `If he
goes upstairs, we may run into Charlie Parker and Bud Powell and Mingus and
all these great musicians.' And Hamp went upstairs and he's playing his
drumsticks all over the awnings and the guys are saying, `What is going on
here?' He'd even go so far as to get in a taxi cab with the saxophone section
and go to another club maybe three blocks away and play with the saxophone
section there. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we're still playing. So it was
quite an experience. He had no shame, and he was a great musician--one of the
great times of my life.

GROSS: But did Parker see you in your Bermuda shorts?

Mr. JONES: Oh, yes. But on top of that, Parker would come next door. Bird
would come next door. He loved to read music. And he was starring next door
with like the 52nd Street All-Stars, the BePop all-stars, and they were
looking for him next door. It was time for him to play his set. And he's
sitting over there in our band playing second tenor, because he loved to read
music. And he's sitting in for an hour while people are next door waiting to
hear him as this genius of the 20th century. And he's over there playing
second tenor parts to practice his reading--because all the musicians read
music back then.

GROSS: So playing with the Hampton band, did you get an appreciation of the
value of, like, show business in music? Or did you come to hate it and want
something that threw that out the window, kind of like Parker threw show
business values, you know, out the window?

Mr. JONES: No. No, no, no. Because we were weaned and, I mean, trained in
Seattle. That's the way we had to do it in Seattle, too. We had to play
schottisches. We had to play rhythm and blues. We had to play stripper
music. We played--did comedy. I mean, the trombone player and myself had a
comedy team called Dexedrine and Benzedrine. We used to steal all of the
comedy lines from the older guys and we'd imitate them and wear hats and wine
bottles in our pockets and stuff. It was insane. But, no, not at all. We
were used to that. We were used to that. He'd have gloves for the whole
trumpet section that would shine in the dark, and you'd do kind of hand
choreography and so forth.

And people can forget, you know, that those bands back there were basically
to--dance bands. They just make people want to feel good dancing. And
coincidentally, a great innovation crawled through that platform, like Charlie
Parker and the Billy Eckstine band, the people--Miles Davis and so forth,
Dizzy Gillespie from Cab Calloway. But these monsters, major, major musicians
happened to be in bands, so basically they were for people to have a good time
and dance, and it was about entertainment. And it was ironic because the
underlying attitude with all of the bebop musicians is that `We've heard
Stravinsky now, we've done this, and we want to be pure artists. We don't
want to entertain anymore, we don't want to sing, we don't want to have to
dance and move or entertain an audience.'

BOGAEV: Quincy Jones speaking with Terry Gross. We're celebrating Jones'
70th birthday today. We'll feature more of Terry's interview with him after
the break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BOGAEV: If you're just joining us, we're featuring an interview Terry
recorded with Quincy Jones in 2001, after the publication of his memoir, "Q."

GROSS: Well, you know, one of the things you say about the Lionel Hampton
band bus--and this might have something to do with why Gladys Hampton wanted
you off the bus--was that there were four different sections of guys on the
bus. Why don't you describe how that broke down?

Mr. JONES: Well, they had--up front were the holy rollers, I guess, and then
they had the drinkers, and then they had the guys that indulged in sweet wheat
and giggle grass, and they had the guys that were the hard core, you know,
that dealt with--like mainliners really, and the...

GROSS: Mm-hmm. And which section did you sit in?

Mr. JONES: The sweet wheat. We were very young then and--I was 18 when I
went with that band. And you'd bounce back between that and trying to figure
out how to make that work with Logan David wine or Manishevitz. It was

GROSS: Well, the first recording that you made was with the Lionel Hampton
band. This was in 1952. It's also your first recorded composition and first
recorded arrangement. It's called "Kingfish." Why don't you say something
about what you think of this musically now?

Mr. JONES: I look at the whole book and the whole life I guess as it's like
somebody else. I don't know where I have the spirit or the stick-to-itiveness
to write something like that then, because, you know, number one, I knew that
music was my ticket out of this other life that I had, you know, of the thug
life and dysfunctional family life, and it was like wonderland to arrange and
the idea of orchestration and arrangements and composition, and that to this
day is what my core skill is as an arranger and orchestrator and composer.
And I was just so happy to have a surrounding, an environment where that was
encouraged all the time.

GROSS: OK. So here it is, 1952, Quincy Jones with the Lionel Hampton band,

(Soundbite of "Kingfish")

GROSS: From the early 1950s, that was Quincy Jones' first recording with the
Lionel Hampton orchestra. It's called "Kingfish."

Mr. JONES: Terry, by the way, I think that's one of the--that's the first
recorded solo I ever had on record, the first record I was ever involved with,
and I think it was one of the only solos I have on record.

GROSS: Why didn't you solo more often?

Mr. JONES: I don't know. I was getting more and more pulled into the
quicksand of writing. And then about a year or so later after we begged Hamp
to give Gigi Gryce and Benny Golson and Clifford Brown in the band, sitting
next to Art Farmer and Clifford Brown and Benny Bailey helped me get into
writing quickly, because they were--Clifford Brown is probably one of the
greatest trumpet players that ever lived; unbelievable.

BOGAEV: Quincy Jones, talking with Terry Gross in 2001. Jones turns 70
today. We'll hear more of the interview in the second half of the show.
Let's listen to Quincy Jones' arrangement of the Michael Jackson Hit "Rock
With You." I'm Barbara Bogaev, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of "Rock With You")

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Ah!

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Oh, yeah.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Bring the funk, Q. Big head for the house, the
same for the nine-pound. Yeah.

Unidentified Man and Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Get down.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Talk about it, huh. Check this out. Original.

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Ahh.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Keep it goin' and you don't stop. Love the way
we do the hip-hop. Oh, yeah. Like this. Check it. Yo, rock you. I got
you. Cue that. Now hold that. Where Q at?

Mr. JONES: (Singing) Right here.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) I knew that. The Jew joint, the knee point, the
funk does...


(Soundbite of "Sanford and Son" theme)

BOGAEV: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev, back with musician Quincy
Jones. Terry talked with Jones in 2001 when he published his memoir called
"Q," the same title as his four-CD retrospective. The box set features Jones'
talents as a trumpeter, arranger, composer and producer, including his work
with Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Lesley Gore,
Aretha Franklin, James Ingram and Michael Jackson.

GROSS: Now I've got to move to a 1962 recording. This is the "Soul Bossa
Nova," which became the theme for "Austin Powers"...

Mr. JONES: Yes, it did.

GROSS: ...the movie, which just goes to show how this epitomizes a certain
'60s sound. What was the occasion for writing this originally?

Mr. JONES: We had just come back from two State Department tours with Dizzy
Gillespie. The first was in the Middle East, the place was Pakistan, right
there, you know? I've been down in Iran and Syria, Beirut. And we came back
to the White House Correspondents' Ball in Washington, and they liked what we
had done, and so they sent us out to South America after that.

And so we went down to Argentina first and Buenos Aires, and after our first
concert, we met a beautiful young musician named Lalo Schifrin, who was a
teen-ager then, too. And he had told me all about--he'd studied with Olivia
Macion(ph), and that's where I first heard the name Nadia Boulanger, and that
just sent electricity through me. He also told--we also recorded down there
with Astor Piazzolla, who was like a very experimental composer working on
what they call a modern city tango. And then he warned us about the new
movement that was coming out of Brazil, and we were very excited about hearing
this new music. It was bossa nova.

And when we got to Brazil, Dizzy played with a rhythm section, samba rhythm
section at the Gloria Hotel one afternoon. And sitting in the front row were
three teen-agers, a married couple, Astrud and Joao Gilberto, and Antonio
Carlos Jobim, who started a whole bossa nova movement. And ironically, the
first record that came out in the United States was "Desafinado." And the
melody on the first--just the opening strain was just almost pure Dizzy
Gillespie. That's why they referred to it at that time as jazz and samba
before they even called it bossa nova.

And so we came home all excited about this new music. They had moved the
clavey beat(ph), which is really like the foundation of Latin music, straight
up and down Latin America. It's--that's the foundation of clavey beat. It's
the guiding force. And I wanted to record some of this stuff, and so I made a
thing called "Big Band Bossa Nova" and I wrote in about 20 minutes--this is
1962--a tune called "Soul Bossa Nova."

GROSS: Well, let's hear your 1962 recording of "Soul Bossa Nova," which later
become the theme for "Austin Powers."

Mr. JONES: Shagadelic. Behave! Here's some of it.

(Soundbite of "Soul Bossa Nova")

GROSS: That's Quincy Jones' 1962 recording of his composition "Soul Bossa
Nova," also known now as the theme for "Austin Powers."

Other music you were doing in the 1960s, you also had a pop music career. One
of your biggest successes was Lesley Gore. You produced her first big hit,
"It's My Party," and produced other records of hers as well. Tell us how you
discovered Lesley Gore.

Mr. JONES: Well, I got--it was sort of a challenge, really, because I was--I
had come back from Europe and I had lost a lot of money, and I had to
take--Irving Green, the president of Mercury, said, `Come over here as an A&R
man because you are an artist on Mercury anyway, an artist in developed
repertoire.' He hired me. And I then--he promoted me to vice president. And
during that time, I was recording all the divas and, you know, Nina Simone and
Sarah Vaughan and Shirley Horn, Dinah Washington, and we were doing things
with Robert Farnon, big string, expensive dates and so forth, and they were
beautiful musical albums. But Irving said to me one time, he says, `You know,
all of the pop guys are saying that you and Hal Mooney were the arrangers of
Budget Busters because you do all this big music, but we need some more help
with the bottom line, with hit records.' And I said--and I was a little
presumptuous and said, `Well, I don't think it's such a big deal to make a pop
hit.' He says, `Well, why don't you start making some then?'

And we were at a meeting at the Oxford House, where we had our A&R meetings
regularly in Chicago, and he said, `Here's a tape that Joe Glaser sent me and
his friend--a fight manager or somebody--has a niece that sang something.
Just say you listened to it, and we'll send it back,' you know. I grabbed it
and I said, `I'd like to try this,' because she had a great sound for a rock
singer in those days. She could sing really in tune. She was 16 years old.
And we went back to New York and talked to Joe Glaser. And he said, `Make her
a star,' you know, and all of that Hollywood stuff. And we went in on a
Saturday and recorded two songs, "It's My Party" and with a B-side written by
Paul Anka, a young Paul Anka, called "Danny."

And on the way to Carnegie Hall, I saw Phil Spector, and Phil Spector said, `I
just cut a smash, man, with The Crystals called "It's My Party."' And I said,
`What?' I had never experienced that kind of competition before. We went
back to the studio with the engineer, and we mastered 100 acetates to send out
to radio, and the rest, you know--and I had to go to Japan right after that.
And I told Lesley, `We've got a great record and everything. All we need to
do is fix that name because I don't think this name is going to work with a
pop record,' you know. So...

GROSS: You didn't like the name Gore?

Mr. JONES: No. I didn't like it.

GROSS: I won't tell Al Gore about that.

Mr. JONES: And Tipper. And so I went to Japan to do a television show
and--we're doing a little acting and scoring it. And so I got a call from
Irving Green later, and he said, `Did anybody call you yet?' I said, `No.' I
said, `Did she get that name together yet? Did she come up with any
suggestions?' And he said, `The record's number one. Do you really care?' I
said, `No.'

GROSS: Well...

Mr. JONES: `It sounds--that was just fine. It's amazing.'

GROSS: Whatever...

Mr. JONES: It was a big lesson.

GROSS: Whatever happened to The Crystals' recording of "It's My Party" that
Phil Spector was producing?

Mr. JONES: I don't think it came out. I don't think it came out. Lesley's
thing was--had such impact. I don't know. I may be wrong, but I don't think
it came out.

BOGAEV: Quincy Jones speaking with Terry Gross. Today is his 70th birthday.
Here's Lesley Gore singing "It's My Party."

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. LESLEY GORE: (Singing) It's my party and I'll cry if I want to, cry if I
want to, cry if I want to. You would cry, too, if it happened to you. Nobody
knows where my Johnny has gone, but Judy left the same time. Why was he
holding her hand when he's supposed to be mine? It's my party and I'll cry if
I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to. You would cry, too, if it
happened to you. Play all my records, keep dancing all night, but leave me
alone for a while. Till Johnny's dancing with me, I've got no reason to
smile. It's my party and I'll cry if I want to...

BOGAEV: We'll hear more of our interview with Quincy Jones after the break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BOGAEV: Back to Terry's interview with musician and producer Quincy Jones.

GROSS: Let's talk about your childhood. Your early years were spent on the
South Side of Chicago. Your father was a carpenter. And you say that he
worked for the guys who ran the rackets in the South Side. How did he end up
being their carpenter?

Mr. JONES: Well, you know, that was the--Chicago during the Depression, in
the ghetto, nobody asked any questions, you know? And Chicago also was the
spawning ground of every--of probably the headquarter spawning ground of every
gangster in America, black or white--Roger Toey(ph), Dillinger, Capone,
everybody. So the Jones boys were just--they were one of the first black
gangsters. They started a policy racket, and they also had a five-and-dime
store chain, the Jones Five-and-Dime(ph), which they used to call the
V's-and-X's(ph). So someone's making a trip over to the V's-and-X's today.

GROSS: So these were the Jones boys your father worked for. This isn't the
Quincy Jones family you're talking about.

Mr. JONES: No, no, no, no, no.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. JONES: They were the gangsters back in the day.

GROSS: Your mother was a Christian Scientist. Did she bring you up in your
early years as a Christian Scientist?

Mr. JONES: I think so, if I can remember. She went to Boston University
probably in the '20s, which was very unusual, you know, for an
African-American female in those days. And she--very smart lady. She spoke
and wrote, like, 12 languages, spoke in Hebrew, everything. And she could
type a hundred words a minute. And so she was like kind of the administrator
or superintendent of one of the places we lived in, like, the Rosenwall,
before we got into a house.

GROSS: Your mother was later diagnosed as schizophrenic, and she was
institutionalized for a while. What were some of her problems at home before
she was actually diagnosed, problems that you found disturbing?

Mr. JONES: Well, it's dementia praecox, which is schizophrenia. She was
obsessed with religion, all forms of religion. And I didn't understand that
at that time, and I don't really know what happened. You know, the families
don't really tell you what the bottom line is, but she would stare out of the
window, and she would sing spirituals. She'd play spirituals and was just
erratic at times. And I remember when I was about five years old, she--at my
birthday party, she threw my coconut cake off the back porch. And it was
really a big deal to me then. I don't know why I remember that so much, but
it was really something that I couldn't understand because the cake was
supposed to be, like, the symbol or the metaphor for the joy of the birthday
party, you know. That's the object that you...

GROSS: Right.

Mr. JONES: ...the campfire. And she threw it out. And it just really
shocked me. And it was a very traumatic moment. I know it sounds like it's

GROSS: No, it doesn't sound like it's nothing.

Mr. JONES: But at five years old, it freaked me out. And I realized--my
brother and I both realized something was wrong. I mean, every day, we
realized something was wrong because it just wasn't like other people's
parents. Even the bad parents, it wasn't the same as that. It was...

GROSS: Right.

Mr. JONES: ...because she was very smart. And so finally, she was
committed. And I didn't know or kind of blanked out what the process was
until I went back there, like, 50 years later when I did listen up. All of it
came back, and I guess that's the part of the book that was cathartic. There
were missing pieces in my memory, and it got clarified.

GROSS: After she was committed, she escaped from the hospital three times,
and then when she was released from the hospital, you say she followed you
around from town to town for the rest of your life. And--sometimes showing up
at the oddest times. Apparently--I guess you needed more distance from her
than she wanted.

Mr. JONES: Oh, absolutely. Well, we had a very hard time communicating. We
couldn't have a conversation without it being--turning into a big argument.
And I didn't know--I guess Lord and I were both so hungry for a mother's...

GROSS: Lord's your brother. Lord's your brother.

Mr. JONES: Lord was my brother, my younger brother. We were so hungry for
the mother stuff and just to be patted on the back or head or something that
we--we just never could communicate. We didn't know how to connect, you know.
At that time, I guess you need validation and guidance and love and nurturing
and those words that weren't around in the ghetto during the Depression. The
nurturing never came up very often.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. JONES: It was like cholesterol. Please, cholesterol sounds like
something to drink, you know?

GROSS: Well, one of the strangest places your mother showed up, one of the
most surprising times, was at Birdland when you were performing. Tell us what

Mr. JONES: Oh, my God. I couldn't believe it. And that was the first time
I ever played Birdland with my own band, and I was really proud because I'd
seen all my idols there--Charlie Parker and Dizzy and Duke, Basie, everybody.
And lo and behold, here come--I see her at the--you know, it's a huge entrance
there--it comes downstairs. And the regular host there was a little midget
named Pee Wee Marquette(ph), who was really a character. He had four watches
on and about three coats of powder on his face and a couple of jackets on and
a vest and everything else. A real character with a lot of attitude. And
you'd see, like, parting of the crowd, you know, as he's walking through
because he was so short and he'd walk through.

And then she said--`No, come on, lady. You know you can't go in'--and then
she said, `Shut up,' you know. `If you didn't drink so much, you wouldn't be
so short.' And she had a tongue like a laser beam. She had a tongue like a
laser beam. And then she saw a father--one of the famous father--Catholic
priests, you know, sitting there with a cigarette and a glass of Scotch. And
I said, `Oh, my God, don't let her see this,' you know? `No way. We'll never
hear the end of it.' Father O'Connor, I think it was--great man. Jazz priest
from Boston. And she saw him, and I could--she just tore--I didn't even know
how to--I couldn't even think about conducting the band, I was so upset. And
she turned the place out for about an hour. You knew she was down there. And
she took nothing from anybody.

GROSS: I want to get back to your music, and to get to the most colossal
success that you had, and that was the album "Thriller" with Michael Jackson.
What was your approach to producing "Thriller"? What did you think of as your
major contributions to the sound of that record?

Mr. JONES: Of course, "Thriller" was a combination of all of my experience as
an orchestrator and picking the songs and Michael's--all the talents he has as
a dancer, as a singer, as an amazing entertainer. It was like us throwing
everything we--accumulated experience, putting it all together.

GROSS: Well, let's hear "Billie Jean." I really regret we're out of time. I
wish we could talk some more. I want to thank you so much for talking with

Mr. JONES: It's a pleasure, Terry.

(Soundbite of "Billie Jean")

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON: (Singing) She was more like a beauty queen from a movie
scene. I said don't mind, but what do you mean I am the one who will dance on
the floor in the round. She said I am the one who will dance on the floor in
the round.

She told me her name was Billie Jean, as she caused a scene. Then every head
turned with eyes that dreamed of being the one who would dance on the floor in
the round.

People always told me be careful of what you do. And don't go around breaking
young girls' hearts. And mother always told me be careful of who you love.
And be careful of what you do 'cause the lie becomes the truth.

Billie Jean is not my lover. She's just a girl who claims that I am the one.
Oh, no. But the kid is not my son. Whoo! She says I am the one, but the kid
is not my son.

No, no. For 40 days and 40 nights the law was on her side. But who can stand
when she's in demand her schemes and plans. 'Cause we danced on the floor in
the round. So take my strong advice, just remember to always think twice. Do
think twice! Do think twice! Whoo!

She told my baby that's a threat as she looked at me. Then showed a photo of
a baby cries. Eyes would like mine. Go on dance on the floor in the round,

People always told me be careful of what you do. And don't go around breaking
young girls' hearts. She came and stood right by me, then the smell of sweet
perfume. This happened much too soon. She called me to her room.

Billie Jean is not my lover. She's just a girl...

BOGAEV: Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," produced by Quincy Jones. Terry
Gross spoke with Jones in 2001. Today is his 70th birthday. Coming up, a
review of a new reissue from tenor sax players Clifford Jordan and John

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Reissue of "Blowing in From Chicago" by Clifford Jordan
and John Gilmore

Tenor saxophonists Clifford Jordan and John Gilmore were born in September
1931 in Chicago, and played together in high school. In 1957, Jordan moved to
New York, and was soon working for Max Roach. Gilmore stayed in Chicago to
play with space-age bandleader Sun Ra. Also in '57, Jordan and Gilmore
convened in a New Jersey studio to record a tenor sax battle. That album's
just been reissued. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a review.

(Soundbite of "Blowing in From Chicago")


Tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan on 1957's "Blowing in From Chicago" recorded
for Blue Note. It replicates a sound common to the Windy City, then or now.
Two tenors will square off, aiming to motivate more than maul each other.
Clifford Jordan was up for it with his fleet and brawny sound, but this bout
is notable more for his sparring partner, John Gilmore, making a rare
appearance outside Sun Ra's orchestra.

(Soundbite of "Blowing in From Chicago")

WHITEHEAD: John Gilmore spent four decades with Sun Ra, an autocratic
visionary who jealously guarded his musicians' time. They couldn't take
outside work without his OK, which he rarely gave. But his star soloist,
Gilmore, slipped out a few times to record with Freddie Hubbard, Elmo Hope,
McCoy Tyner, Paul Bley and Andrew Hill. Gilmore put up with the short leash
because Sun Ra's leaping melodies and weird chords stimulated him more than
normal jazz fare. Take, for instance, Ra's "Saturn" from late 1956, a few
months before "Blowing in From Chicago," where the tenor solo is more original
than anything on that jam session. This is the Gilmore Jon Coltrane admired.

(Soundbite of "Saturn")

WHITEHEAD: "Saturn" by Sun Ra. John Gilmore played it a little straighter
than that when paired with Clifford Jordan. These individual tenor players
can sound oddly alike on their joint session. Jordan and Gilmore were only 25
and not fully formed yet, and they had come up side by side, studying at
Chicago's Dusable High School with Midas Touch bandleader Walter Diette(ph).
His many prominent students included Gene Ammons, Nat "King" Cole, Dinah
Washington, Eddie Harris, Joseph Jarman, Fred Hopkins, Von Freeman and Bo
Diddley. Here's Clifford Jordan blowing a blues chorus, then Gilmore takes
over, nipping at his heels.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: The Chicago tenors front a hot New York trio here. Pianist Horace
Silver, bassist Curly Russell and drummer Art Blakey were the original Jazz
Messengers rhythm section. The horn men must have made a good impression.
Clifford Jordan was in Silver's band by the following year; and in 1964,
Blakey managed to hire John Gilmore away from Sun Ra for eight months. Writer
Bob Bloomenthal tells us that in the '70s, when Gilmore and Jordan were more
seasoned players, someone proposed a rematch. It was a great idea, but Sun Ra
nixed it.

OK. Let's go out with one last solo by John Gilmore with Art Blakey in hot
pursuit on "Blowing in From Chicago."

(Soundbite of "Blowing in From Chicago")

BOGAEV: Kevin Whitehead writes for the Chicago Reader and the Chicago Sun
Times. He reviewed the reissue "Blowing in From Chicago" on the Blue Note


BOGAEV: For Terry Gross, I'm Barbara Bogaev.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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