Former friend, mentor and producer of the late Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones recently sat with Details Magazine for a controversial interview. In the interview, he details his love for Michael and speaks candidly about what he perceives as the tortured genius’ obsession with race and his poor self image.
Q: You were there to witness the strange evolution in Michael’s appearance. Did you ever step in and saying anything about it?
A: Oh, we talked about it all the time. But he’d come up with, “Man, I promise you I have this disease,” and so forth, and “I have a blister on my lungs,” and all that kind of b.s. It’s hard, because Michael’s a Virgo, man—he’s very set in his ways. You can’t talk him out of it. Chemical peels and all that stuff.
Q: But it must’ve been so disturbing to see Michael’s face turn into what it turned into.
A: It’s ridiculous, man! Chemical peels and all of it. And I don’t understand it. But he obviously didn’t want to be black.
Q: Is that what it was?
A: Well, what do you think? You see his kids?
Q: Did you ever discuss it? Did you ever ask, “Michael, don’t you want to be a black man?”
A: No, no, no, please. That’s not the way you do it.
Q: But he was beautiful before?
A: Man, he was the most gorgeous guy.
Q: But he seemed to have some deep-seated issue with how he looked?
A: Well, that comes about a certain way. I’m not sure how it happens. I’m just a musician and a record producer. I’m not a psychiatrist. I don’t understand all that stuff. We all got problems. But there’s a great book out called Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart. Did you see that? That book says the statute of limitations has expired on all childhood traumas. Get your stuff together and get on with your life, man. Stop whinin’ about what’s wrong, because everybody’s had a rough time, in one way or another.
Q: I’ve heard you say that you wanted Michael to sing “She’s Out of My Life,” the great pop ballad from Off the Wall, in part because you felt like he had to deal with reality.
A: I just wanted to hear him deal with a romantic relationship with a human being rather than a rat. I’m saying that facetiously, but it’s true. I saw him at the Oscars very emotional about “Ben.” I wanted to hear him get in touch with a real human relationship. “She’s Out of My Life” was written by Tommy Bahler from a very bad ending to a marriage. So it was very real. I was saving it for Sinatra. But I gave it to Michael. And Michael cried during every take, and I left the tears in.