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In '08 Interview, Quincy Jones Reflects On Jackson


One of Michael Jackson's most significant mentors was music producer Quincy Jones. Jones produced Jackson's blockbuster albums "Thriller," "Off the Wall" and "Bad." Our co-host Michele Norris talked to Quincy Jones last year about working with Michael Jackson.


It's been 25 years since the release of "Thriller," which was the - really the culmination of a successful partnership between you and Michael Jackson. When you met him, you saw something in him that people thought that he was already at the peak of his career. But you said, no, no, I can take to him to new places.

Mr. QUINCY JONES (Music Producer): Yeah, a lot of people said that, you're right. And they said that's as big as he can get.

NORRIS: What did you see?

Mr. JONES: I saw a depth while watching him when we did "The Wiz." And Michael said, could you find me - I'm getting ready to do a solo album - could you help me find a producer? And while they were rehearsing, Michael's role, if you remember, he would pull out little pieces of paper from his chest - and he had the prosthetics on his face, it took five hours of makeup, and he'd pull out da-da-da-da-da-da-da, Confucius. Da-da-da-da-da, Kierkegaard or whatever. Then he said da-da-da-da-da-da-da, Socrates.

I said, who - Socrates? What is that? And he kept saying Socrates and nobody corrected him. The second day I was worried that it would become a habit so I went over and I said, Michael, it's Socrates.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: It's not Socrates. And he said, really? His eyes were so innocent, and I had been watching him. He knew everybody's dialogue. He knew everybody's songs. He knew everybody's steps. I've never seen somebody that could just absorb so much so quickly and so involved. And so I saw another side of him, and I said, I'd like to take a shot on your album.

NORRIS: You've had an almost symbiotic relationship with Michael Jackson, a very personal relationship.

Mr. JONES: Yeah. Ours is as close as it gets, you know.

NORRIS: It's difficult for me to ask you this, but Michael Jackson's life has become the fodder for tabloid fare on so many occasions. Has that been tough for you to watch?

Mr. JONES: Very. Very. You know, the prerequisite for preparing yourself for success, especially success that big, which is probably the biggest, biggest success that ever occurred in music ever in history - it is scary. And it hit me about a year or so - a year and a half after we put the record out. And I remember People Magazine did a cover without even an interview on Michael. The next week, they did another cover on Michael. The third week, they did another cover of Michael and dedicated the whole magazine to him.

At that time the album started to sell, like, a million-five a week, you know, it was just out of control. And that scared me a little bit because it's - then you can see how far it's going, you know. And then you worry that if everybody can keep their feet on the ground.

NORRIS: And it must be tough, though, as a producer, because if you do your job really well and lift someone to the highest heights of success, you're taking them to a place where the air can be really thin.

Mr. JONES: It is a thin. It's very thin. And - because two or three things happen: You think you deserve the success, which is a little off, or you think you don't deserve it, then you're fooling everybody.

SIEGEL: Our co-host Michele Norris speaking last year with music producer Quincy Jones about legendary singer Michael Jackson. Jones released a statement today. It says, I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news. I've lost my little brother today and part of my soul has gone with him.

(Soundbite of song, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough")

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON (Artist): Keep on with the force don't stop, don't stop 'til you get enough. Keep on with the force don't stop, don't stop 'til you get enough. Keep on with the force don't stop, don't stop 'til you get enough. Keep on with the force don't stop, don't stop 'til you get enough. Touch me and I feel on fire. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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