Music industry icon Quincy Jones was incredibly candid in a wide-ranging interview with Vulture published Wednesday.
The 28-time Grammy award-winner spoke with New York magazine’s entertainment and culture website about Michael Jackson, dating Ivanka Trump, the current state of music and who he thinks killed John F. Kennedy, among a number of other topics.
Here are some of the juciest quotes from Jones’ chat with Vulture, which was edited and condensed from two conversations.
On Michael Jackson’s musicianship: “I hate to get into this publicly, but Michael stole a lot of stuff. He stole a lot of songs. (Donna Summer’s) ‘State of Independence’ and ‘Billie Jean.’ The notes don’t lie, man. He was as Machiavellian as they come.
“Greedy, man. Greedy. ‘Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough’ — Greg Phillinganes wrote the C section. Michael should’ve given him 10 percent of the song. Wouldn’t do it.”
On The Beatles: “That they were the worst musicians in the world. They were no-playing (expletive). Paul was the worst bass player I ever heard. And Ringo? Don’t even talk about it. I remember once we were in the studio with George Martin, and Ringo had taken three hours for a four-bar thing he was trying to fix on a song. He couldn’t get it. We said, ‘Mate, why don’t you get some lager and lime, some shepherd’s pie, and take an hour and a half and relax a little bit.’ So he did, and we called Ronnie Verrell, a jazz drummer.
“Ronnie came in for 15 minutes and tore it up. Ringo comes back and says, ‘George, can you play it back for me one more time?’ So George did, and Ringo says, ‘That didn’t sound so bad.’ And I said, “Yeah, (expletive) because it ain’t you.’ Great guy, though.”
On social issues of class, racism and sexism: “The rich aren’t doing enough. They don’t (expletive) care. I came from the street, and I care about these kids who don’t have enough because I feel I’m one of ’em. These other people don’t know what it feels like to be poor, so they don’t care.
“We’re the worst we’ve ever been, but that’s why we’re seeing people try and fix it. Feminism: Women are saying they’re not going to take it anymore. Racism: People are fighting it. God is pushing the bad in our face to make people fight back.”
On allegations against his friend, Bill Cosby, Brett Ratner and Harvey Weinstein: “It was all of them. Brett Ratner. Weinstein. Weinstein — he’s a jive (expletive). Wouldn’t return my five calls. A bully.”
On Donald Trump: “I used to hang out with him. He’s a crazy (expletive). Limited mentally — a megalomaniac, narcissistic. I can’t stand him. ...
“He doesn’t know (expletive). Someone who knows about real leadership wouldn’t have as many people against him as he does. He’s a (expletive) idiot.”
On dating Ivanka Trump 12 years ago: “She had the most beautiful legs I ever saw in my life. Wrong father, though.”
On who killed John F. Kennedy: “(Chicago mobster Sam) Giancana. The connection was there between Sinatra and the Mafia and Kennedy. Joe Kennedy — he was a bad man — he came to Frank to have him talk to Giancana about getting votes.”
On today’s pop music: “It’s just loops, beats, rhymes and hooks. What is there for me to learn from that? There ain’t no (expletive) songs. The song is the power; the singer is the messenger. The greatest singer in the world cannot save a bad song. I learned that 50 years ago, and it’s the single greatest lesson I ever learned as a producer. If you don’t have a great song, it doesn’t matter what else you put around it.”
On current artists creating good music: “Bruno Mars. Chance the Rapper. Kendrick Lamar. I like where Kendrick’s mind is. He’s grounded. Chance, too. And the Ed Sheeran record is great. Sam Smith — he’s so open about being gay. I love it. (Music producer) Mark Ronson is someone who knows how to produce.”