Quincy Jones
Video uploaded March 2013

Quincy Jones’ music-industry reign spans more than six decades. He’s taken home a phenomenal 27 Grammy Awards, and found winning formulas for the likes of Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand. A major multimedia presence, he produced TV’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, created Vibe magazine, and co-produced the movie The Color Purple with director Steven Spielberg. Topping off his voluminous achievements are a Kennedy Center Honor, the French Légion d’Honneur and seven Academy Awards nominations.

When Jones met John Sie, founder of Starz Entertainment Group, the two became fast friends. Today they work together in advancing a number of pet projects, including the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, the founding of which was inspired by Sie’s granddaughter, Sophia, who has Down syndrome.

In 2009, GDSF created the Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award in recognition of the musician’s prodigious philanthropy. As the producer behind two We Are the World recordings, he played an integral role in raising financial support for famine relief in Africa in 1985, and aid to those affected by the Haitian earthquake in 2010. ABILITY’s Chet Cooper caught up with Jones in Los Angeles.

Cooper: How did you get involved with the Global Down Syndrome Foundation (GDSF)?

Jones: John Sie is an old friend of mine. He’s a pioneer of cable television, high-definition television and a range of technology. He knows his business backwards and forwards. So we were kicking around the idea of launching a black-oriented entertainment network, because I wanted to see one that’s more useful to the black community than what is being offered today. Eddie Murphy, Denzel Washington and Will Smith were going to come together on it with me. We decided to put that project on hold for a while, ultimately, but John and I became friends forever. He truly is my brother from another mother.

Cooper: Do you think you might still pursue the creation of that network?

Jones: Absolutely. We recently met with AT&T, TNT, DirecTV and Comcast. It’s exciting. It gets me out of bed in the morning.

Cooper: As your friendship with John evolved, he called you up and said,“I have an idea for a nonprofit.” Is that how it happened

Jones: Absolutely. I took a trip to Denver, where I met beautiful little Sophie, his granddaughter, and it was love from then on.

Cooper: Let’s talk about the Linda Crnic Institute.

Jones: The people there are doing great work. They’re so passionate about the mission, and John is totally committed to it.

Cooper: Other than Sophia, have you met many children with Down syndrome?

Jones: Throughout my life: A lot of celebrities have kids with Down syndrome. For the last two years, I’ve been working with Jamie Foxx, whose sister, DeOndra, has Down syndrome. He brought her in to do our Be Beautiful, Be Yourself fashion show, and she said, “I’m the star!”

You’d think all these kids on the runway would be shy, but they’re strutting like Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington, you know? One time they had me on the dance floor, and they almost put me in the hospital. (laughs) I just love them, man! These kids are so smart and so emotional.

Cooper: So many of us are guarded in what we say and in showing how we feel. The people I know with Down syndrome seem to be more honest and sincere.

Jones: Absolutely. Sincerity flows out of them. Every time I’m with the kids, they want to feel my hair. I had two brain operations for an aneurysm, and they get curious.

Cooper: Can we talk a little bit about your aneurysm?

Jones: It’s a weakness in the main artery to the brain, a congenital weakness, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was in a coma. I didn’t know what had happened until I came out of it. My head was all wrapped up. Doctors had drilled a hole in my head and sawed out a piece of bone. They told me, “The good news is, you lived. The bad news is, you’ve got another one, and we’ve got to go back in.”

Man, I lost it! (laughs) When they operated on me again, two months later, I became paralyzed on my left side. My doctor said, “Get your butt on that road, or you’ll be a vegetable the rest of your life.” My band had a 15-day tour in America, and a 15-day tour in Japan the following year, so I went out on the road.

She was right: When I finished the tour, I wasn’t paralyzed any more.

Cooper: That was your physical therapy?

Jones: Exactly! Shakin’ my booty! [laughter] It was great, man! It makes you appreciate life more, I’ll tell you that.

Cooper: Teri Garr had an aneurysm, too.

Jones: A couple of actresses have had it. It’s no joke.

Cooper: I was at her house for an interview, and she wouldn’t come downstairs. Her daughter thought it was strange that her mother was still in bed. She realized something must be wrong. Turned out Teri was having an aneurysm.

Jones: Oh, my God, man! While you were there?

Cooper: Yes.

Jones: You don’t know what it is, at first.

Cooper: Her daughter thought she was just tired.

Jones: When it happened to me, I blacked out all of a sudden. I looked at the television and suddenly I had double vision. It felt like a shotgun had been fired into my brain. I went in and out of a coma because of the pain, I guess. It’s amazing. I didn’t know my own children’s names, or even my own name. My daughter was just six months old.

I’ve been working with a doctor in Stockholm for the last five years. There are also 14 doctors I see, once a year, over the course of six days. They get together to compare findings. They share information with me about the coming nanotechnology, which they say will be a billion times faster than this dinosaur stuff we’re using now. I hear them talking about the paradigm shifts that will happen as a result of these innovations. It’ll shake the world to the ground.

Cooper: Do you have any heart problems?

Jones: Oh, no. I’ve got a heart like a mule. Like a Viking. My daddy was half Welsh, and boy, that global gumbo is very strong.

Cooper: Let’s talk a bit about the global gumbo that is music. It’s interesting to me that it’s both artistic and mathematical. Do you ever think of music in terms of wavelengths?

Jones: Are you kidding, man? I’ve thought about it that way for most of my life. For one thing, symphony orchestras tune up to A, right? That’s 440 cycles. It’s not an accident that the universe is 450 cycles.

I traveled with Nat King Cole in the early ’60s. He’d do a verse of Autumn Leaves, a capella, and then the orchestra would come in under him—and the orchestra was out of tune because Nat King Cole had perfect pitch. Mathematics and music are absolutes—brothers of a sort.

Music always engages the left and right sides of the brain. You’ve got emotion and intellect at work at all times, and that makes it easy to learn everything else. I’m a strong advocate of having music connected to your life. It’ll turn you upside-down. I see people with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder (ADD) benefiting from it.

Cooper: We actually are working on a music-therapy program.

Jones: It’s powerful, man.

Cooper: We’ve written what we call The ABILITY Song (Everyone Be Beautiful). Anyone can join in the song by playing the kazoo, because if you can breathe, you can play kazoo.

Jones: Did you write the song?

Cooper: It was a co-production between Molly, an editor who’s on sabbatical now, and myself. She’s a wonderful singer and an incredibly talented writer.

Jones: I’d love to hear that; I could make it an anthem. (laughs) And everybody can play a kazoo.

Cooper: It’s amazing how many people with disabilities are involved in music.

Jones: Look at Albert Einstein. He had ADD, he was ..... continued in ABILITY Magazine click here to order a print copy or to subscribe Or get a free digi issue with a "Like" on our Facebook page.

Like article let people now in Facebook

Excerpts from the Quincy Jones Issue Oct/Nov 2011:

Susanne Bruyère, PhD — Creating Possibilities at Cornell

Virginia Jacko, CEO — Blind Visionary

Quincy Jones — Renaissance Man and More

David Zimmerman — Sharing the Spotlight

Michelle Sie Whitten — Things Are Looking Up

Still Swinging — An Inside Look at Adaptive Golf

Humor Therapy — Coupons Are For Suckers

Articles in the Quincy Jones Issue; Humor — Coupons Are For Suckers; Ashley Fiolek — 2011 Women’s Motocross Champ!; Sen. Tom Harkin — Working For More Jobs; Cinderella — A New Spin on an Old Tale; Still Swinging — An Inside Look at Adaptive Golf; Susanne Bruyère, PhD — Creating Possibilities at Cornell; Virginia Jacko, CEO — Blind Visionary; Meet the Biz — Actors Training Actors; PAWS/LA — The Sick and Elderly’s ‘Best Friend’; Quincy Jones — Renaissance Man and More; Michelle Sie Whitten — Things Are Looking Up; Workout Dvd — First You Get Off The Couch...; The Old Guard — A Change is Gonna Come; OCD — From Pain to Published Author; ABILITY's Crossword Puzzle; Events and Conferences... subscribe

social media

blog facebook twitter