Why We Need More Quincy Jones’ in the World

Last week, an 84-year-old Negro from a world many of us wouldn’t even recognize decided to “spill the tea” in a way that rivals podcasts like “The Read” or “Real Housewives After Show” with Andy Cohen.

Quincy Jones, the music mogul, in an interview with David Marchese and published by New York Magazine, divulged the inner-workings of a mind and spirit that hadn’t just seen the entire world, but actually had a hand at shaping it. The interview was presented in transcript form, sans opinion-based essay prose. The off-the-cuff name-dropping makes the interview read as if you’re watching a live interview. Jones liberally drops the noun “motherfucker” with the ease of a sentence filler like “um” or “uh.” It almost makes you wonder does he know what he’s saying, or is he just telling it as he sees it.

American culture, however, lends itself to letting our elders speak unfettered. Jones is in good company with this phenomenon. It’s like that moment at the dinner table when aging family members who are remembered as sweet and docile by the now grownup kids, turn into slightly irascible old people who say whatever is on their mind punctuating irritating sentences with “Shit!” or “Hell!”  It’s almost comical. Often times the party to the tirade bursts into laughter. Part nervous and part mirth. I can’t help but see the revelations of Jones as this.

Given that the long arc of Jones’ exposé includes a conspiracy theory that the mob killed John F. Kennedy, you can’t help but wonder is he spouting Negro folklore or is he simply telling the truth. While stories such as Michael Jackson stealing songs is plausible given how pop music has mutated into one continuous sound, his story about Ringo Starr and jazz musician Ronnie Verrell make him sound like some magical Negro on par with Bagger Vance.

Unsurprisingly, the juiciest morsel that he disclosed was that Richard Pryor and Marvin Gaye slept with Marlon Brando.

The internet was all a flutter with this news.

As the interview struck a match and tossed it on a pile of dry kindling, when Pryor’s ex-wife confirmed the claim in her own flowery language, it was as if someone took one of the burning pieces of wood and tossed it on a pile ready for a large bonfire.

For some, like myself, this was news. Apparently in some circles, this was common knowledge that Pryor engaged in same-sex sexual encounters all throughout the 1970s. His ex-wife made sure to add that the use of Quaaludes and drugs in general was commonplace in Hollywood as if to intensify just how lawless social and sexual norms were at this time.

While social norms shift constantly these days, one such shift includes the “outing” of someone else. Even if they’re dead. Singer Patti LaBelle received social media flak when she blabbed about a dalliance of Luther Vandross, even though, allegedly, what she revealed wasn’t a secret. Evidence that times have changed is that her “outing” flew under the radar for the most part. There would have a been point within the last 20 years where such a story would have been front page of the tabloids, now it only makes the B-list gossip sites.

I remember not learning about the sexual orientation of vaulted Harlem Renaissance poets Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen (especially the story of W.E.B. DuBois forcing him to marry his daughter) until I got to college. I felt almost deceived that I didn’t know this story until later. This was a material part of the story of blacks in America and somehow this tidbit was left out. And not just left out of my formal education at school, but in the cultural education that I received at home and at church. Perhaps, it really wasn’t common knowledge, thus, can I blame them for not telling me what they themselves didn’t know? But, as I age, I realize the harm we do in not telling the whole story for the sake of respectability politics.

At the end of the day, I wonder do the stories of Marvin Gaye and Richard Pryor get entered into the canon of American culture. Will we—both black and white Americans—choose to tell a more complete story; choosing to tell a story that at least places their queer identities in the narrative. I say this because it calls into question how not telling such liberative narratives may have crushed the dreams and hopes of black youth in the 1980s and 1990s. For all of the talk about representation, do not the likes of Gaye and Prior deserve full representation as well?

Do we need more gossips who tell other people’s personal business simply to be messy? No. I don’t see Jones as some careless tattler telling everyone’s dirt but his own, but rather a foul-mouthed sage who’s attempting to humanize the cultural idols we so often worship. In a world made plastic because of the performance of the fake and phony by so many, perhaps we need more truth-tellers like Jones. And if some black youth or young adult hears the story of Pryor or Gaye sees a path forward, then we owe a debt of gratitude to “Q” for telling it like it is.



3 thoughts on “Why We Need More Quincy Jones’ in the World

  1. Well, its not the first time in my 61 years of life existence witnessing various life perspectives and events that define what it is to be human, flip-flop. In my opinion, humanity is near a level of completely diminishing religious dogma’s competition to mass control human complexities. Religion order(s) obviously have institutionalized human value systems: right and wrong, good and bad, righteousness and wickedness, and negative values -v- positive values. Religious dogma(s) in this American society was once protected by a majority thinking and behaviors upholding religious dogma, but now the excluded minorities with various competing groups are gaining power and influence in the society. What once was taboo in the society is now the norm in this society. Perhaps one day in the future of the American society, White-racism will become taboo and not the norm, as it remains today 2018.

    The Black American, as always, here in America are found between a rock and a hard place in this American White controlled society. Our individual personal lives should be regarded as sacred within our group shared experience, struggles, and semi-developed culture.

    Our group civic life is still evolving and developing from a state of nationally legalized chattel enslavement to emancipation from the hands of White slave masters and owners to living under Jim Crow Laws and the present-day White-racism which is designed to block and limit our group progress and advancement equitably to other races and groups living in the society.

    By the way, Quincy Jones lifestyle is not definitive of the average Black American youth nor any American youth. Quincy Jones has lived a financial good life but he too suffers from a lack of protagonist leadership with the use of his resources to change the American society oppressive conditions facing everyday common youth of all races and creeds.

  2. Many artistic types from music, arts and Hollywood engaged in bisexual behaviors in the 1960’s and 1970’s, fueled by ‘free love’ and drugs. While these behaviors were hinted at by the media of the time, no one paid much attention, probably because we didn’t want our idols tarnished with reality. Their experimentations did not impact the lived of the average person because they did not themselves identify as gay or lesbian. They still don’t, those who are still living. Even Elton John didn’t officially come out until the ’80s, when it was safe for his career. Little Richard never did, although it would have given him a more satisfying life. People like Wanda Sykes and Ellen DeGeneres, on the other hand, owned up to their sexual orientations because they couldn’t live disguised.

    Q was dishing on other people’s dirt but I didn’t hear of him telling his own dirt.

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