In-depth interview with Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones

I can remember the first time I stumbled on this interview with Quincy Jones on I was blown away. To hear the brains behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller album production share his journey from a poor, obscure childhood to a mega-successful adult was so refreshing and empowering. I can’t remember how many times I have reread this interview (as well as Ted Turner’s); must have been a zillion times. Haha! But I love it!

If you’ve always thought poverty (the guy actually fed on fried rats at a time, can you believe that !!!) and racism are insurmountable challenges, then Quincy Jones will change your mind.

Please read and be blessed:

 Quincy Jones

(Quincy Jones was first interviewed by the Academy of Achievement on June 3, 1995 in Williamsburg, Virginia and again on October 28, 2000 in London, England. The following transcript draws on both interviews.)

You were born in Chicago. What was your life like when you were a child?

Quincy Jones: We were in the heart of the ghetto in Chicago during the Depression, and every block — it was probably the biggest black ghetto in America — every block — it also is the spawning ground probably for every gangster, black and white, in America too. So, we were around all of that. We saw that every day. There was a policeman named Two Gun Pete, a black policeman, who used to shoot teenagers in the back every weekend and everything happened there all the time. A gang on every street: the Vagabonds, the Giles HC, the Scorpions, and just on and on. In each gang they had the dukes and duchesses, junior and senior, which accommodated everybody in the neighborhood. That was the whole idea, for unity, really. Our biggest struggle every day was we were either running from gangs or with gangs. And it was just getting to school and back home. Because if your parents aren’t home all day, you know, it’s a notorious trek. I still have the medals here from the switchblade through my hand, pinned to a tree. I had an ice pick here in the temple one time. But, when you’re young, nothing harms you, nothing scares you or anything. You don’t know any better. And in the summertime — the schools were the roughest schools probably in America. I saw teachers getting hurt and maimed and everything every day, and it was everyday stuff.

Extracted from Click here to continue the  interview:

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HELP ! I NEED HELP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Had to dig this one out of the archives. I know you will enjoy reading it: 

I remember when my dad returned from an overseas trip years ago, He just like any sensible father would, bought my siblings and i some books among other things. One of the books i’ll never forget is the one that had a story about a character called “Forgetful Joshua lane”.It was such an interesting tale that it made a huge impression on me.It’s only days ago that i began to learn my first lesson from that story. Amazing isnt it? Want to hear about the story? I’ll tell you.

“Forgetful Joshua Lane” was a story about a guy called Joshua Lane who had a serious memory problem.He was always late to work because he kept forgetting to get up early to catch the 7:AM train. So he decided to solve the problem by setting his alarm clock to ring one hour earlier,which would naturally give him enough time to prepare and get to the train station on time.

So the alarm goes off an hour earlier as scheduled and Joshua Lane rises from bed only to forget why he set the alarm. By the time he remembers why, he’s missed the train and late to work again.

Even more determined to solve his problem, Joshua Lane decides that this time he would tie a red ribbon on his thumb to remind him of the reason for the alarm.So the next morning the alarm rings on time,just as the day before. Joshua Lane rises from his slumber,looks at the ribbon on his thumb,hoping to recall the reason for the alarm, is clueless as to why he tied the ribbon on his thumb. As a result, he misses the train, and is late to work again.The tale ends leaving Joshua Lane in a desperate and helpless situation.

It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that Forgetful Joshua Lane needs to look for help outside of himself because he’s obviously not doing a very good job at self help.If i were Forgetful Joshua Lane, I’d scream…HELP! I NEED HELP!

Are you like Forgetful Joshua Lane? Forever doing your best and getting nowhere? Putting your best effort and having only repeated failures to show for it? Getting to your wits end when it comes to solving that never ending problem? Then you need to scream HELP! I NEED HELP! You need to be humble enough to admit that you lack the discipline, skills, knowledge or resolve to overcome that challenge.You need to ASK FOR HELP.Don’t keep banging your head against the wall and hoping things will get better.Ask God for help, ask your friends, ask your neighbour for help, ask your spouse, siblings, colleagues, your employees…..whoever.Just don’t continue the cycle of frustration.

That’s what Forgetful Joshua Lane should have done.

– Nigerian Philosopher

It’s time for change bro!

Ok! It’s 2012. New year resolutions are nothing new. I have a few of my own. But people say new year resolutions don’t work. I can understand why they say that, even though I can disprove their theory.

If  “New year resolutions” never worked, it’s because they were never resolutions in the first place. What most people often jot down at the beginning of the year is New year Wishlist, and not resolution. Resolution is a powerful word. It means “The state or quality of being resolute or simply put, firm determination. The latter gives a clearer picture.

It seems unlikely to me that one with a firm determination to do something will end up not doing that thing he/she has determined to do. Is it likely that person could lose motivation midway? I doubt it! It’s just not possible. The words to watch are firm and determined. Resolutions are children of weak wills (which I am ashamed to admit I’ve had for quite a while).  The trouble has always been that most of us made up a list of things we hoped would happen in the new year without any firm determination to back up our desires. In fact without the firm determination, desires will forever remain impotent. You will peep into the promise land, but have no capacity to enter it.

This year I have resolved to change into the man I have always desired to be. So when I say I have a New year resolution, I mean just that! I have a firm determination to instill discipline in my life, confront all my fears, stay my course till the end of the year, work on all the weaknesses that tripped me in 2012 and most importantly cultivate and constantly improve my relationship with my Creator. I realize all that I lost  in the previous year can be restored  in 2012 if I just resolve to do all that is required to make the necessary changes in my life. So I decided not to make a wish-list this time, but a resolution.

All it takes is a few years of going round in circles for one to understand that in order to make progress, there has got to be some painful sacrifices. And that no one can make those sacrifices unless he/she resolute. So it’s time to make that transition from wishlists to resolutions. I keep saying to myself…. it’s time for change bro!

– Nigerian Philosopher

My best excerpt from The Richest Man In Babylon

“So I was turned over to Sira and that day I led her camel upon a long journey to her sick mother. I took the occasion to thank her for her intercession and also to tell her that I was not a slave by birth, but the son of a freeman, an honourable saddle maker of Babylon. I also told her much of my story. Her comments were disconcerting to me and I pondered much afterwards on what she said.

“’How can you call yourself a free man when your weakness has brought you to this? If a man has in himself the soul of a slave will he not become one no matter what his birth, even as water seeks its level? If a man has within him the soul of a free man, will he not become respected and honoured in his own city in spite of his misfortune?’

“For over a year I was a slave and lived with the slaves, but I could not become as one of them. One day Sira asked me, ‘In the eventime when the other slaves can mingle and enjoy the society of each other, why dost thou sit in thy tent alone?’

“To which I responded, ‘I am pondering what you have said to me. I wonder if I have the soul of a slave. I cannot join them, so I must sit apart.’

“’I, too, must sit apart,’ she confided. ‘My dowry was large and my lord married me because of it. Yet he does not desire me. What every woman longs for is to be desired. Because of this and because I am barren and have neither son nor daughter, must I sit apart. Were I a man I would rather die than be such a slave, but the conventions of our tribe make slaves of women.’

“’What think thou of me by this time?’ I asked her suddenly, ‘Have I the soul of a man or have I the soul of a slave?’

“’Have you a desire to repay the just debts you owe in Babylon?’ she parried.

“’Yes, I have the desire, but I see no way.’

“’If thou contentedly let the years slip by and make no effort to repay, then thou hast but the contemptible soul of a slave. No man is otherwise who cannot respect himself and no man can respect himself who does not repay honest debts.’

“’But what can I do who am a slave in Syria?’

“’Stay a slave in Syria, thou weakling.’

“’I am not a weakling,’ I denied hotly.

“’Then prove it.’


“’Does not thy great king fight his enemies in every way he can and with every force he has? Thy debt are thy enemies. They ran thee out of Babylon. You left them alone and they grew too strong for thee. Hadst fought them as a man, thou couldst have conquered them and been one honoured among the townspeople. But thou had not the soul to fight them and behold thy pride hast gone down until thou art a slave in Syria.’

“Much I thought over her unkind accusations and many defensive phrases I worded to prove myself not a slave at heart, but I was not to have the chance to use them. Three days later the maid of Sira took me to her mistress.

“’My mother is again very sick,’ she said. ‘Saddle the two best camels in my husband’s herd. Tie on water skins and saddle bags for a long journey. The maid will give thee food at the kitchen tent.’ I packed the camels wondering much at the quantity of provisions the maid provided, for the mother dwelt less than a day’s journey away. The maid rode the rear camel which I followed and I led the camel of my mistress. When we reached her mother’s house it was just dark. Sira dismissed the maid and said to me:

“’Dabasir, hast thou the soul of a free man or the soul of a slave?’

“’The soul of a free man,” I insisted.

“’Now is thy chance to prove it. Thy master hath imbibed deeply and his chiefs are in a stupor.
Take then these camels and make thy escape. Here in this bag is raiment of thy master’s to disguise thee. I will say thou stole the camels and ran away while I visited my sick mother.

“’Thou hast the soul of a queen,’ I told her. ‘Much do I wish that I might lead thee to happiness.’

“’Happiness,’ she responded, ‘awaits not the runaway wife who seeks it in far lands among strange people. Go thy own way and may the gods of the desert protect thee for the way is far and barren of food or water.’

“I needed no further urging, but thanked her warmly and was away into the night. I knew not this strange country and had only a dim idea of the direction in which lay Babylon, but struck out bravely across the desert toward the hills. One camel I rode and the other I led. All that night I traveled and all the next day, urged on by the knowledge of the terrible fate that was meted out to slaves who stole their master’s property and tried to escape.

“Late that afternoon, I reached a rough country as uninhabitable as the desert. The sharp rocks bruised the feet of my faithful camels and soon they were picking their way slowly and painfully along. I met neither man nor beast and could well understand why they shunned this inhospitable land.

“It was such a journey from then on as few men live to tell of. Day after day we plodded along. Food and water gave out. The heat of the sun was merciless. At the end of the ninth day, I slid from the back of my mount with the feeling that I was too weak to ever remount and I would surely die, lost in this abandoned country.

“I stretched out upon the ground and slept, not waking until the first gleam of daylight.

“I sat up and looked about me. There was a coolness in the morning air. My camels lay dejected not far away. About me was a vast waste of broken country covered with rock and sand and thorny things, no sign of water, naught to eat for man or camel.

“Could it be that in this peaceful quiet I faced my end? My mind was clearer than it had ever been before. My body now seemed of little importance. My parched and bleeding lips, my dry and swollen tongue, my empty stomach, all had lost their supreme agonies of the day before.

“I looked across into the uninviting distance and once again came to me the question, ‘Have I the soul of a slave or the soul of a free man?’ Then with clearness I realized that if I had the soul of a slave, I should give it up, lie down in the desert and die, a fitting end for a runaway slave.

“But if I had the soul of a free man, what then? Surely I would force my way back to Babylon, repay the people who had trusted me, bring happiness to my wife who truly loved me and bring peace and contentment to my parents.

“’Thy debts are thine enemies who have run thee out of Babylon,’ Sira had said. Yes it was so. Why had I refused to stand my ground like a man? Why had I permitted my wife to go back to her father?

“Then a strange thing happened. All the world seemed to be of a different colour as though I had been looking at it through a coloured stone which had suddenly been removed. At last I saw the true values in life.

“Die in the desert! Not I! With a new vision, I saw the things that I must do. First I would go back to Babylon and face very man to whom I owed an unpaid debt. I should tell them that after years of wandering and misfortune, I had come back to pay my debts as fast as the gods would permit. Next I should make a home for my wife and become a citizen of whom my parents should be proud.

“My debts were my enemies, but the men I owed were my friends for they had trusted me and believed in me.

“I staggered weakly to my feet. What mattered hunger? What mattered thirst? They were but incidents on the road to Babylon. Within me surged the soul of a free man going back to conquer his enemies and reward his friends. I thrilled with the great resolve.

(Excerpt from The Richest Man In Babylon by George Clason