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(Credit: Canadian Film Centre / White House)

Quincy Jones on Elvis Presley: “He was a racist”

Quincy Jones, not shy about allowing his opinion to slip out, has offered his view on Elvis Presley by labelling him a “racist”.

There is no doubting Quincy Jones’ extraordinary talents. After all, his work behind the production desk speaks for itself and has received a staggering 80 Grammy nominations, as well as masterminding countless hit records. Jones walks on musical water to the degree that nobody will dare question his outspoken opinion, even if he did once describe The Beatles as “the worst musicians in the world”.

Jones, a pioneer in his own right, has been reflecting on some of the most iconic names in the business in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter as part of their icon series.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Jones was asked about his opinion on both Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, to which he replied: “[Jackson] was doing some Elvis copying, too. ‘The King of Pop,’ man. Come on!” Jones said.

While Jones has worked with of the biggest names in popular culture history, he would never have considered a collaboration with Elvis: “No. I wouldn’t work with him,” he said.

“I was writing for [orchestra leader] Tommy Dorsey, oh God, back then in the ’50s,” Jones elaborated on why he would ignore The King. “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,” he added. 

Elsewhere in the interview, Jones discussed the mass racism protests that have erupted after a series of disturbing cases of police brutality. “It’s been coming a long time, man,” Jones 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.”

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