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Quincy Jones: Elvis a ‘racist,’ Billie Holiday taught me to ‘stay away from heroin’

by Keydra Manns

“No. I wouldn’t work with him,” said Jones when asked if he would work with Presley.

At this point, Quincy Jones is known for telling it like it is.

During a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the 88-year-old living musical legend sat down and dished on all things music. He also offered up his thoughts on Elvis Presley, Billie Holiday, and the protests surrounding George Floyd.

“No. I wouldn’t work with him,” said Jones when asked if he would work with Presley.

“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. But every time I saw Elvis, he was being coached by [“Don’t Be Cruel” songwriter] Otis Blackwell, telling him how to sing,” spilled Jones.

Racist rumors have swirled the man known as the King of Rock and Roll. It was even releveled that he lifted one of his biggest hits, “Hound Dog” from legendary vocalist Big Mama Thornton.

But Jones’ tune changed when he mentioned jazz singer Holiday. He said he started working with the young star when he was just 14-years-old but learned a big lesson from her.

“Oh my God, stay away from heroin,” said Jones. “She could barely get to the stage, man. She could barely walk on the stage, but Bobby Tucker was like my brother. He eventually became the music director for Billie. When she came out, we were so awestruck by her, we forgot to play the horn. He said, “Goddammit, read the music, man. Play the horns!” We were 14 years old. Come on, man. Billie Holiday.”

Actress Andra Day recently stunned the country with her portrayal of Holiday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Many say the actress was robbed for not winning the 2021 Academy Award for Best Actress which she was up for.

Quincy Jones

The magazine also asked Jones, who has lived throughout many eras of the country, his thoughts on the protests in light of George Floyd’s death. Former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of his murder in April.

“It’s been coming a long time, man. People have been turning their heads the other way, but it’s all the same to me — misogyny, racism. You have to be taught how to hate somebody. It doesn’t come naturally, I don’t think. I don’t think so, unless you’ve been trained. I just think it’s such a bad habit. These racists, oh my God. Asians? How the hell do you get mad at an Asian girl?”

Jones, who recently celebrated his birthday on March 14, also spoke on a thoughtful gift he received from Ms. Oprah Winfrey herself. He shared that the two had recently spoken.

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“Yeah. She sent me some flowers for my birthday, man. It made my soul smile. It was like I was 170. I mean, unbelievable. Filled the whole table up. She’s beautiful, man.”

It was actually Jones who was responsible to casting Oprah in one of her most iconic roles ever in The Color Purple.

“That’s right, and I also put her name on the credits. (Points to her name on The Color Purple poster.) The room downstairs is called the Oprah Suite, the O Suite. I built it for her — all her favorite colors in there and everything,” Jones said who produced the famous 1985 film. “We did pretty good, too. They kept saying a Black picture can only do $30 million. I said, “We’ll see. We’ve got a great cast. We’ve got Spielberg. We’ll see.” We did $143 million.”


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