In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, esteemed musician and producer Quincy Jones candidly spilled the beans on why he never worked with Elvis Presley, saying the so-called “King of Rock’n Roll” was a “racist motherf***r.”
The 88-year-old, who has worked with the likes of Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin, was profiled by the popular magazine as part of its “THR Icon” series. In the interview, the veteran musician touched on a few topics including racism in the entertainment industry, last summer’s protests that were triggered by the death of George Floyd – and of course Presley.
Asked if he ever worked with the deceased musician and actor, Jones flat out replied, “No. I wouldn’t work with him.”
He then continued: “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.”
Besides the Presley revelation, the Grammy award winner also opened up about the racism he experienced as an entertainer back then when he was asked about what brought him to Hollywood in the 1960s.
“They called me to do Gregory Peck’s Mirage [in 1965] and I came out here. I was dressed in my favorite suit, and the producer came out to meet me at Universal. He stopped in his tracks — total shock — and he went back and told [music supervisor] Joe Gershenson, ‘You didn’t tell me Quincy Jones was a Negro,’” he said.
“They didn’t use Black composers in films. They only used three-syllable Eastern European names, Bronislaw Kaper, Dimitri Tiomkin. It was very, very racist. I remember I would be at Universal walking down the hall, and the guys would say, ‘Here comes a shvartze’ in Yiddish, and I know what that means,” he continued, adding: “It’s like the N-word. And Truman Capote, I did In Cold Blood, man. He called [director] Richard Brooks up, he said, ‘Richard, I can’t understand you using a Negro to write music to a film with no people of color in it.’ Richard said, ‘F*ck you, he’s doing the score.’ I did, and I got nominated for an Oscar.”
Outside music, Jones touched on George Floyd’s death and the protest that ensued in what was a summer of racial reckoning, saying it was something that was brewing.
“It’s been coming a long time, man,” he said. “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?”