The 88-year-old musician and producer made the comments while speaking to The Hollywood Reporter as part of their new Icon series.
“When he was 12 at Sammy Davis’ house, and he told me when we decided to do [The Wiz], he says, “I need you to help me find a producer. I’m getting ready to do my first solo album.”
The 28-time Grammy-winning producer said the young Jackson “knew how to do his homework” when it came to other artists, “whether it was with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly or whoever, James Brown. He was doing some Elvis copying, too. ‘The King of Pop,’ man. Come on!”
Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson. CREDIT: Getty Images
Jones went on to say that he wouldn’t have worked with Elvis Presley, alleging in a new interview that the late singer “was a racist”.
Pressed on why not, Jones 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,” he added. THR notes that Blackwell told David Letterman in 1987 that he and Presley had never met.
NME has contacted representatives of Elvis Presley’s estate for comment on Jones’ remarks.
Jones was also asked about the anti-racism protests which took place across the world last year following the death of George Floyd.
“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.”
Back in February, Jones was named on an advisory board to help support musicians in the US who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.