Interviewer: So tell me, when you first met or heard of Quincy.

Maya Angelou: Well, Clancy and I met in the 50s in Paris. And. He was a great musician. It was already considered a great musician and. But more important than that, at that time, he was pretty OK that he looked like heaven walking. It was just. A wonderful listening chat and with a wonderful sense of humor. And that all that time ago, I was a dancer, that the principal dancer with Porgy and Bess and that taught dance in Paris. And and I sang a bit, I doubled in nightclubs, so, I mean, after I left the opera. And. We didn't become good friends until later back in the States. I don't know how it happened. It just happened the way people fall in love, people fall in friendship, you know? And in fact, the friendship may be a love without sexuality, but lots of sensuality. So.

Interviewer: What do you think he took from that rich sort of expatriate, you know, in large measure, a lot of African American expatriates there? What how do you think that broadened his scope? He was pretty young then.

Maya Angelou: Well, he was always very young. He's young now. He's probably the youngest new 70 year old that you'll ever meet, but. I think that Paris did for Quincy what it's done for a number of great writers and I mean African-American and American writers, everybody from Ford, Maddox, Ford and Hemingway and those and of course, Miss Miss Stein and then James Baldwin and Richard Wright and me. And. Whether it would pass afford it as far as seeing the world. As one world, because Quincy would have met not only France, but a lot of Europeans, so the Swedes for the first time come into the picture and Africans from Senegal who were living in Paris at the time with their drums and their music and their wonderful languages. So Paris afforded for Quincy a chance to see that human beings were more alike than we are unalike.

Interviewer: Wow, thank you. Um. What about let's just jump to Hollywood.

Maya Angelou: Yes.

Interviewer: Tell me very briefly about your experience. Um, Quincy becomes a major film scorer. How does that happen?

Maya Angelou: How does that happen? That's a very good question. I don't know other than he was a great musician when he left Seattle. When he left Seattle, he'd already was kicking it, you know, Mr. Ray Charles and Pat Boone and you know, all those and the others who left Seattle. I think that there is again, it may have to do with Paris, but it also has to do with the natural makeup of the person. It is said some philosophers say courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently can be consistently fair, kind of true, honest or generous. None of those things you can be anything erratically, but to be it consistently, you have to have courage. I have a feeling that Quincy Jones is one of the most courageous persons. Not musicians or men or black or American, but he is a great, courageous person, so when offered a chance, when he heard he was offered the chance, whether it was an external offering or an internal offering, whether he heard some music and a movie and said, I'd like to do that. When offered the chance for a life, he stepped right out. And that takes courage. You can't have been black in a white country and black male. And a white male country. And step out and risk your own reputation and risk your comfort, risk your sense of yourself, risk your dignity. Unless you have amazing courage. I mean, nobody took him by the hand and said, OK, now here's what you do, you write this down and I mean, there are people who helped and I thank them and the world must bring them. And I know Quincy does, but I mean truly to do it. Finally, it's only that brain, that ear, that pen and that paper.

Interviewer: What do you think about his childhood, which I think. He's been very open about it in his book, and it's you know, I don't mean to generalize, but it's a horrific experience. How does that fit into that courage or do you can is there any connection?

Maya Angelou: I don't know. Having had one myself. Oh, I don't know. I think one of the things it does, it it makes you confess to yourself that you can come through anything. Have to say that, I mean, a small person. You know, I have some sympathy for children, good lord. What they have to go through if you happen to have all the things that it's whatever the external things are. It's almost impossible to grow up. Most people don't. My thesis is that most people simply get older. They find parking spaces, they hammer their credit cards, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but usually they cut off at about 14 or 15 minutes. So Dad blamed you for that? So to be courageous enough to to have already gone through so much and to come through that. And say, I'm a musician. I mean, that's who I am. You want to know who I am, who I am. And I think this is what makes people love him, so and people adore Quincy Jones. And. His vulnerability. Even after all that, the cruelties. He's gone through. Disappointments and pain, physical as well as psychological. He's still vulnerable. He still sees each day as, hey, kids. Here, we have a chance to do it now. And he's as tough as nails, tougher. So I think that's what people love, you know, you feel he's tough enough, you can trust yourself around him. If he's your protection, you've got protection. But if you want somebody to weep with you, you got somebody.

Interviewer: Thank you. For the for love of Ivy. Just briefly, wonderful stories. What's it like when he writes a song or working with him in that environment?

Maya Angelou: I don't even know how. I don't know what the steps were to working together. But we do very nicely. Um. He has respect and love for me, and I love and respect him. So. When he presents the music, then to write to somebody else's music, you shave off a word here and make a word would curl up. And so that it will match and all of that, which was new to me, that he was very patient with me. And we did have one song on the top 10. So it was good, um. And we are now working on that song. Yes, man, I spoke to him last week. So I'm trying to hear it. I'm trying to hear it lyrically, so that he can then hear it musically.

Interviewer: Is that for Sammy Davis?

Maya Angelou: No.

Interviewer: Why was Quincy the perfect person to produce Clinton's inaugural celebration and and what do you think Quincy's vision for that event was, and describe what it meant to you to be there as well.

Maya Angelou: Hmm. Those are about 10 different things.

Interviewer: Let's start with, Quincy has a real kinship with Bill Clinton.

Maya Angelou: Yes.

Interviewer: Why would Clinton reach out to Quincy for such a symbolic moment where he's assuming the presidency? Why did Quincy have to offer? And what did Quincy where did they connect in terms of heart to heart to know?

Maya Angelou: No, it's not that that last part is very simple. I mean, they connected man to man. Human being to human being. That's that's their connection. And it's a profound one. Mr. Clinton would know that the enormity of an inaugural celebration was not beyond Quincy Jones' capability and possibility and probability. The musicians who wrote We Are the World showed us that at this. It's their arms don't reach 180 degrees, they really reach three hundred and sixty for Quincy Jones. So you could propose to him the idea of a child's birthday party. And he would have some ideas are you can propose to him the idea of a presidential inauguration and he'll have some idea. So, I mean. I don't want to make him sound larger than life, but if I could if I had to write. A word for Quincy, I would say he is life. So nothing would frighten him, he'd have to pull all that that he knows together. You see. That. And then he's not beyond asking people. You know, encouragement and ideas, he's not a pompous chap. He really is humble. You know, he's not modest, though, he has no modesty, and that's just as well because modesty is a learned affectation. Modesty sometimes is a barrier between a person and a thing, persons and persons. Humility though comes from the inside. Inside out, modesty is outside-in, and so he's not modest, but he is humble. So. He was the right person because obviously.

Interviewer: Just remarkable. Quincy, read a letter from you at a hip hop summit that he convened because he cares about young rappers shooting each other.

Maya Angelou: Yes.

Interviewer: Speak to his concern about that and why at this point in his life, that's really clearly very important to him.

Maya Angelou: Well, now Quincy is concerned about everybody. And yes, young people killing themselves and each other. Yes, old people and how do they have. But they live. How do they how is their. How are their evenings, their twilight evenings, because he's concerned. Women and fair play for them. He's concerned. Every, of course, he's concerned. Because the rappers use music and sincemusic is his, music is his language. Then he would have an easier path into the rappers community, not just their physical community, but their professional community. So it follows that he would then enter in that. Years ago, James Baldwin, who was my brother friend, and mentor. He was turning in his grave now as I say that, but I can sayit. He went out, he told me he was going out to California to try to help Eldridge Cleaver. I flipped and said, that is the dumbest thing, I hate it, and so far. Because Eldridge Cleaver had written such vulgarity about James Baldwin in his book, Soul on Ice. So, Jimmy said, oh, you're concerned because you don't like what he wrote about me. I said now, that's true. And not about your work, but about you. Yes, I'm concerned. He said I'm doing it because it is right to do. He said, ofttimes the son kills the father. And it may be necessary symbolically so the son can have his time in the sun. His place in the Sun. But finally, he said, admit that I'm doing it because it is right to do. Well. Quincy Jones went to the rappers because it was right for him to do it. So I wrote that piece for him to read to them because it was right for me to do it. Very simple.

Interviewer: Great. Thank you. Quincy's been involved in projects geared with issues in Africa for a long time. If you just start with what you thought route's meant to him or sparked in him, and then if you could just speak to how, again, in a broader sense, you talked about how he's interested in a lot of things. But clearly, the people in Africa, his relationship with Nelson Mandela, that's very important to him. And tell us why and your perspective on that.

Maya Angelou: Oh, right, um. The South African situation was so dire, has been so dire that African Americans in general, and some in particular have focused on South Africa because of apartheid. So a number of people I'm Dudley Randall the poet, Randall Robinson, Andrew Young, Quincy Jones, Robert Brown, a number of people have been keenly focused on South Africa, and it is of interest that the ANC, the African National Congress and the Pan African Congress. I stated from Nelson Mandela to Robert Sobukwe that Martin Luther King's the movement, the bus boycott inspired them. In South Africa in the late 50s. And so Sharpeville, the Sharpeville massacre came out of that. We have had an intense relationship. Because as we African Americans have moved forward toward freedom and fair play and equality and the end of of discrimination, so other people have been moved. It is of interest, it was of interest to me to see. When Marcos went down, the song that was sung in the Philippines is We Shall Overcome. It is of interest to see in Poland as the people move to rid themselves of the colonialism of the Soviet Union that people sang, We Shall Overcome. It is no small matter, and it is fitting that a leading musician, a leading person, heart and then talent, and all that would focus to see how he or she could be of service in South Africa and southern Africa. So it seems right that it seems to me a very clear path.

Interviewer: Is there a particular thing that Quincy's done in his life or, you know, in his political consciousness or social consciousness that just stands out for you as the kind of perfect, not there's no one emblem for Quincy or, you know, he's not Lindbergh's flight or something, but is there something that speaks most strongly to you as...

Maya Angelou: Yes. Quincy knows where he came from. And he respects. The people upon whose shoulders he stands. And that may seem on the face of it, a very simple line, it is a simple thing, like truly simple things. It's very profound. He has never there's an African saying, which is only a fool points to his background with his left hand, you can't it's very disrespectful to point at all, but the left hand, this is not acceptable. And. That he continues to say thank you to those who went before, it's probably the salient point of his future, his work, his offerings, his contribution, because he always says, thanks, Basie, thanks, Duke. Thanks, Sassi, thanks. Thanks. Thanks to those who went before. That liberates him in a wonderful way. And. His, I hesitate to use the word posture because it seems like it will move. I don't mean, his stance of gratitude is so wonderful. That's him, he stands as a man thankful. To those who helped to life, to God, I dare say that.

Maya Angelou
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
"Maya Angelou, Quincy Jones: In The Pocket." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 14 Aug. 2001,
(2001, August 14). Maya Angelou, Quincy Jones: In The Pocket. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Maya Angelou, Quincy Jones: In The Pocket." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). August 14, 2001. Accessed January 18, 2022


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