Transcript:

Speaker He wrote, Dude, from where I stood on the margins of the American social reality, the Hollywood of my youth was not a courageous place, nor was it a hospitable place for one perceived as different as a trespasser prowling too close to some private domain when you came to town in Sydney. Statement ring true for you also. Is that also your experience?

Speaker Sydney statement rings loud and clear. Clearly true. When I first came to California, I mean the very first time I came in 1951 with Lionel Hampton's orchestra, I'm playing with a big swing band. It was the end of the swing band and I was in heaven and I didn't know there was a Sunset Boulevard until maybe five years later. We stayed in the South Central and our Hotel Miyako and all those places, and we discovered this place called Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard. Then I came back. Maybe five or six years later, when I started recording out here and started to discover to fill the place up and being from New York, as most people in New York, like most people in New York, they really know how to rag on Los Angeles. All of the things, earthquakes and people around all day, they don't get anything done. All of that stuff. No Four Seasons. And I was the typical New Yorker. And until I guess it was 63, 64. And I got a call from Cary Grant to come to his last escort to his last film. And I had done one picture before, which is the pawnbroker in New York. And I thought everything was going to come rolling in that taking months go by nothing. And finally, my agent said, we have a walk, don't run. And I didn't realize the picture's universal before that. And you talk about uninviting the producer that that or that film didn't know I was black. And when I walked in, he turned green and he went back in the other office with some of the musical directors. And fortunately, they called my friend Henry Mancini. And Henry said, Are you crazy? You know, this man's started Daleville that that with everybody, you know, don't worry about him writing the blues for Gregory Peck. We still laugh about that scene with Great. At that time, I don't think there were any people of color, even in the kitchen at Universal, and that was really a rough place. There's a building on the right, on the left, right, go past the black tower.

Speaker And that building, it doesn't make any difference, really, were black or white because we call it sprinkler drainage. Music editing was and the editors and the composers work and they had like dungeons look back rooms with Bernard Herrmann and Johnny Williams doing all doing television programs was doing a Hitchcock. I was working on Ironside and that's what we really learned, our craft and skills. But it was I wanted to write for film since I was 15 years old and I didn't get a shot until 1963 with Sidney Lumet.

Speaker So it was worth the wait because that was my that was my dream, my fantasy to write for films. And I finally got through in the following year after Cary Grant movie. I did the music, too, in the heat of the Night and in Cold Blood the same year. And things were pretty good after that.

Speaker But it's that Sidney Lumet would be the first because it's the best thing that we did.

Speaker Six films together with both Sidney Sidney Poitier too. And it's nice to have friends that go back that far. But I understand what Sidney is speaking of, because it's it's it's like such as like Dickens. And it's the best of times. The worst of times. And when I first came out here, because, you know, you're exploring it's a new thing to make a decision to go into film. And all the years that I longingly watched on screen snow for maybe one syllable last name, there was an Eastern European last name, because I'm really trying to say that that there were like many black composers, Benny Carter was one of the pioneers of Calvin Jackson.

Speaker Duke Ellington, I think, did a couple of movies, but single card credit was very scarce.

Speaker When did you meet Sidney?

Speaker Oh, my God, I met Sidney, I think about 1951 and we were working at Birdland.

Speaker And I think he just got in town and was coming out of Birdland and 19 years old or something like that.

Speaker And Sidney was coming across the street was almost like a Philly animal that he describes it better than anybody, you know, and he's come across the street. So my name is Sidney Poitier, and he used to have pebbles in his mouth, sometimes training his fortune to get rid of his accent. And he said, this is my friend Harry Belafonte and Marlon Brando.

Speaker And we love and for instance, and it was just that's amazing. I mean, the relationship has just been so beautiful because this is really closer than your brothers. You spend more time with them than you do with your family. And so that's been one of the most incredible relationships I've had has been with this man, Sidney, because when it goes back that far, what are we talking about now? Forty six years or something. Forty seven years. You had a lot of hills together, but she had an awful lot of valleys and valleys. Sidney that's when his wisdom and his is innate wisdom is amazing, amazing human being an amazing friend.

Speaker He just knew when to show up. I remember one time I was at a hotel at Beverly Hills Hotel Bel Air Hotel after a divorce settlement came with this little pouch. And I sat down and, you know, I wanted to talk. And after I talked, he knew what to tell me, what to say, even in the good times. I remember the Sunset Tower, which is now the archive or something like that. So nice Deco apartment hotel. And I used to live there when I first came out to do films and Sidney was at the Chateau Marmont, Chateau Marmont and all of that.

Speaker The tower was jumping. We were really having a good time. I was conducting for Sinatra. Michael Caine just did Alfie and we were partying and really were in that hotel at that motel out. And Sidney dropped by one night.

Speaker We were just talking and I said, you know, cool, because we paid a lot of dues in New York and here. But I think this is our year. He could not have been more perceptive because that he did to serve with love. He did guess who's coming to dinner and in the heat of the night.

Speaker And my thing was getting ready to start at two. And he said, there's one thing you've got to remember. And it stuck with me all my life. You said you have to deal with moderation now because. In a few years, you'll be able to do anything that you feel like doing. You'll have the facility to be able to facilitate anything that you want to do. And that's where you have the only control. It's going to be your own center itself. And I never forgot that because it's so easy to go over the top, especially when you make it. You can be in more trouble by making it than paying bills in the yard. And he's always giving me advice like that, not preaching. Just just drop two or three words and not just like penetrate and permeate my whole subconscious mind.

Speaker And so I've been very blessed to have a big brother like that to hold on to and adore him and who loves me too. And it's a nice feeling.

Speaker It is. There's nothing better. Nothing in this. That's why we're here. And it's so cute, because when I see it here, you know, you don't become kids. You know that.

Speaker That's true. And the kids together, they play together. The daughters are exactly the same age. You know, pictures are all over them. And it's funny because we do the 15 year old comes out every time we see each other and we have pretty good genes, I think. So, you know, we still feel pretty good, you know, and I think last Christmas, Bob Dylan's house, we would send as I said, you look fantastic, good, strong.

Speaker And he said, actually, you look great and everything else in love. And there is a city of things you said yes to 70 or do some each other how good they look. But that's a 15 year old speaking to each other. So what happened?

Speaker Yeah, I don't think Marvin Davis I mean, he doesn't have much faith.

Speaker And you you collaborated on six blocks together.

Speaker Yes.

Speaker But can you tell me what the the first film was? Sidney Pollack's first film of Slender Thread, The Slam The Thread with Anne Bancroft and Telly Savalas, the second film in the Heat in the Heat of the Night.

Speaker And then we did The Last Man Together. We did Brother John together. I know that some more. They call me Mr. Taylor. They call me Mr. Tibbs.

Speaker And after for the love of my love of Ivy.

Speaker Thank you exactly. The Bob Bridges and Carroll O'Connor and Abbey Lincoln.

Speaker Oh, in in two of Sydney's films here was Blues. And for The Love of Ivy, they were very strong romantic relationships, one with Diahann Carroll and the other with everything.

Speaker He was they were I didn't know that much more and more. And I knew about I don't know about that, but I didn't know about Abby.

Speaker Well, I would say I'd say, oh, ok, ok, ok.

Speaker OK, no, I understand, but I didn't get it. But you know, when Pisgah a man you can never tell, you know, we're both in places like with those two of the first romantic movies between two African-American leads.

Speaker What's the question, those two that leave the Paris blues and the one with Abbey Lincoln with those two firsts like leading role, American leading role, romantic leads?

Speaker Maybe maybe one was. But I remember some of the film that was one with which is that those type of things are happening like, oh Jesus, it's amazing. At sixty five you forget.

Speaker Oh I could see his face. Great actor.

Speaker Anyway, it was among the first six. Oh.

Speaker I'll have to look up, but that's better for me because I know him so well, he directed he directed this book to step behind the door to the Sunshine with a very, very well-known African-American actor.

Speaker Not that Jones know well before. OK, well, I'm.

Speaker I'll talk about the determination and the discipline and the hard work that you have to do, but you have to have to conquer because you both did conquer this terror, you superstars.

Speaker What do you take to do that?

Speaker Maybe a little bit more of what you've already been doing. I have never looked up. You just keep going. You just keep going. And some of the things you are involved with, they work and some they don't work and they don't work. Those are the ones I really have learned to love because they make me pay attention.

Speaker And in regard to is my antenna on or did I let it slip up for a minute and especially in record?

Speaker So I pay most attention to the records that don't happen because everybody in the world goes into the studio to make a record. They make a record that expresses themselves and and they hope everybody in the world loves it. I mean, I think back to think the same way, you know, if they will pop into popular musicians of that time, you know, that's why you remember Mozart and Back and Beethoven, because they were many guys, you know, apart from the classical era that but the ones that are still around, like Beethoven, were popular musicians. And I learned more from the mistakes than from the victors, really, because somebody gave me a fantastic term the other day. They said that the people that really get involved in that thing and they just know what's going to happen somehow, which is kind of crazy notion, really. But all of us are like that. That is because, as I said, we have an irrational confidence in the future.

Speaker That's a great way of putting it because there's nothing logical about it. You know, you're going to get through it. You're not going to make it whether you starve or not. You know, it would be OK most of the time. You don't know what you're going to be doing six months from now or most of my life.

Speaker I'll never know what's going to happen six months from now, but something's always happening and it's just insane way to live. You know, I've been thought of in terms of the parents saying, why don't you go get a real job? You know, I understand the respect your parents. If my kids said that, it would blow my mind to. Oh, because that's so uncertain. And the teaching aspect of it is and it just dominates the life throughout and and it keeps happening. And you look up and it's a 65 year old and it's still happening. And this next August, I still don't know what I'll be doing in.

Speaker That's a great phrase, irrational confidence.

Speaker It is, and it's a very truthful answer because you don't know why you have that belief, and that's why I have such a profound respect for the divine involvement in our creativity and inspiration, because you'll always have it as long as you believe that there's cause and manifestation and you understand what our job is and what God's Chavez. I'm not in the record business for sure. Many people, when they get one to hit records, it's OK. God, I'll take it from here. I love my cousin and my mother won't come from God and get they get in big trouble all of the time. They get in trouble. But you just let go and surrender to that. That divine power is very, very powerful. And there have been times where we've been under deadlines and so forth. And I was composing for films like a lot of films out here, all records with films that they did more demanding, and the deadline gets closer and closer and sometimes it's never good enough. So you're still working, doing it over and over again. And all of a sudden the two minute warning that Sidney just spoke about a little while ago out and it just comes and you throw the pencil away, you pick up a pen you can't erase and you're just going to say, right. And don't look back, you know? And it's interesting. It always surprises me because it's an incredible feeling. And then the next morning, composing and orchestrating is about getting closer and closer to what you hear to get back to your hand, to put it on paper. Like handyman's said, it's a long way from the hand to that head to the hand. And it really is a long way until you really have to develop your skills and craft and so forth and believe in that divinity. And it just comes something that comes straight through you, but straight through your arm. You have no control of it. And it's a fantastic feeling the next morning when you drop your hands and forty 45 piece August 108 piece orchestra. There's nothing on the planet like that to this day that the night before last. It's nothing like that. That's true.

Speaker I think, especially with music, that music is a very sexy, awesome.

Speaker It just astounds me. You can't touch it. You can't taste it, can't see it, smell or something.

Speaker There was criticism thrown at Sydney in the late 60s and early 70s, it was a very nasty article by Clifford Mason wrote in The New York Times. Why do folks love Sydney? Are you aware of that? Oh, that's where did all that come from? The plantation.

Speaker It says the threat came from. It came from the house slaves and the field slaves. And it just goes through all areas of our society. And it's as though, I guess, the slaves that worked in the house, perhaps special privileges, or they might have been part of the trial of a concubine or Lord knows, I mean, all of us have had that happen in our lives, you know, to check back in the history and the once and the feel or feel like if you do have white friends or the white population, LifeShield, you know, that there must be something wrong, you know, and that's over years of conditioning. And since this is a struggle, I've lived a lot abroad. And so I've had a chance to get a different perspective of America. And it helped me a lot as like being a child. I came out of the biggest ghetto in America, Chicago, at 10 years old and went to Bremerton, Washington. Please. You know, I took my brother and I were the only black kids in the entire school. Twenty eight hundred kids and during World War Two. And they just had to get a check on the perception. And it was not easy, you know, but it. And further down the line, maybe six or seven years later, ten years later, to go to Europe and. You see the Armenians on the Turkish case, Cyprus dreamscapes of the Irish and the English, the Koreans and the Japanese, the Danes and the Swedes and the Swedes, the Finns and so forth. And three years ago, when I got the polar rise over there, like the musical Nobel Prize, and you have to give an acceptance speech in front of the staff. Oh, I said I was very comfortable in Sweden in the 50s because we didn't get noticed because the Swedes are too busy trying to figure out how to build up the fence.

Speaker And that's true.

Speaker And so it puts you ahead in another space so you can at least have a little perspective of the past and present and future as an African-American, because, you know, because you left alone or indifferent or adored or whatever it is, because they love they love the black culture and have for years much more than Americans, white or black. To this day, they understand I'm music much better.

Speaker I you know, I think I know I did one of these with Gloria Steinem and she was criticized by feminists for like a year if she could not get over it because it was their own that was criticized.

Speaker And and it is so hurtful when it's not the way it was criticized, but a black intellectual who finds all the kinds of reasons to twist what he has no control over.

Speaker Right. Right. Exactly. He's a doctor. Exactly. I criticize him.

Speaker And and it's part of that whole period where Reverend King was also, like, tossed aside for a while.

Speaker It was like he wasn't militant enough. He wasn't militant.

Speaker But, you know, put those two things together for me.

Speaker Well, I am in the process now of doing our writing with a lower level because a Broadway show about Sammy Davis and Leslie wrote all of the songs for Sammy were kind of and I can imagine all those things.

Speaker And I had my Sammy since I was 12 years old. So we can sit down without a book and really dig into it. We will sample the violence, know, which is a nice perspective.

Speaker You know, an Englishman and an American over in France, a little with Sammy Davis, but I work for Jesse Jackson for about seven years when what was formed push after he left ACLC as a very militant period. And in the 70s, one of the purposes of everything was going on. And we would have thing every year called Harambee in Chicago Amphitheater, 15000 black people. And Jesse would get everybody really, really enthusiastic and stirred up, you know, because you have all the athletes in America, all the black athletes in America come to Chicago, all the attorneys, the doctors, all of the entertainers and everything else. And it was pretty exciting to call it Black Expo to get the kids get the kids have. And I know how it was like in Chicago. We used to do seminars in the schools in the daytime and put on shows at night.

Speaker One night we'd have prior Dick Gregory, Flip Wilson. Oh, just five. Come on, Cosby. All on the same night, the Jackson five, you know, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, all the Motown people, Sesame Street. I mean, an embarrassment of riches in terms of entertainment. And one night, I think the third year Jesse invited Sammy right up to Sammy, hugged Nixon.

Speaker And I'm telling you, it was one of the most dramatic nights get, you know, have made Sammy feel I mean, the same thing. I felt it for him because I knew him since I was a kid and is a man who comes out to Chicago with a paycheck in his hand. You know, at that time, you probably couldn't really afford it. You know, the big check in his hand, all of his dignity together. And he walks out of this with Sammy Davis Junior and 15000 black people boo him. It was unbelievable, feeling a lot. And now I'm in the south of France just last month, and I have maybe 80 books of transcripts from the tapes of handling the interviews with Jan and Bret Baier about that incident.

Speaker Speaking of it from his from his soul, trying to explain to them what happened. And I knew that night all the things I read there. He never expressed those words, but I could feel it all that night. And Jesse was amazing because Jesse grabbed him and held his hand like that and said, hold it, you know. If it hadn't been for this man, you know, you wouldn't be here, all of the things he's done, you know, so you better get that together. He turned it upside down. And that, you know, most people of the world is divided into the ships and the ship and separate. And there's no doubt about it all the way that the shepherd guides. And that's really sad, you know, without having their own independent thinking or their own judgment.

Speaker And that that night was it was a very cruel night. And and I was just very touched by the way Jesse handled it, because Sammy was devastating. That devastating.

Speaker I mean, it is because of that. That's it. Nothing ever, ever hurt him that much to have his own people do that to him. And it's a perception. It's a lot of things. You know, he's is a man that had access to the entire planet, you know, and worked himself up, you know, not just another pretty face, you know, and he worked because I met him when I was 12 years old. He's all day long just grooming himself and learning how to dance better music and drums and singing impersonations and all these things. And he gets to the top and it's it's just so of irresponsible to just like that and boo somebody, you know.

Speaker You know that there is something about getting to the top that makes people want to pull you back.

Speaker Absolutely. And that's not even a racial thing. That's all over the world. You know, that's a human of human behavior and is probably bigger than anyone but all English people. And I've heard that McCartney and people of different people are performers are staying out of England. Tell me how attitude about somebody that gets over certain gets a certain stature and a certain income.

Speaker You know, it's it's a serious class system, all of them. While that history may work for them, the twenty seven hundred years, a lot of it can work against them, too, because it's very rigid and staid, traditional.

Speaker Oh, and I think that's one of the benefits of having America. We don't have all that history so we can make up some rules, made up some pretty bad loans to some people.

Speaker So you spent time with Sidney and you're one of the Bahamas? Oh, yeah. And you were sailing together the first time he ever went back to Ireland.

Speaker Absolutely. Tell me about that experience. I'll never forget it because.

Speaker It's so hard to imagine somebody you've known so long and and this who's so urbane, sophisticated, intelligent and funny and witty and everything to come from an island and a little tiny island, Callahans, seriously small island. And he showed me the little wooden bridge and so on. Just one year old, he was able to just walk underneath that bridge without his head hitting the top of the bridge. And it was just so small and tiny.

Speaker And we've met some of the people that lived there before. A couple of his relatives us know it was an amazing experience because I could never imagine that. I could imagine him from Nassau, you know, because we stay with him in Nassau, but not an island, because there's nothing in the United States like that.

Speaker Does that, you know, rural I mean, pastoral, tropical you to say, yeah, it's amazing.

Speaker We took it back there, but we went back with him. Oh, sure. Oh, sure.

Speaker Be about visiting him and myself. What was what was his reason for going back?

Speaker He he he felt very much at home down there. And this is amazing because Sammy Davis was with us and Sam was his first vacation ever. And it was right after the Oscars. And I think I remember the songs Windmills of my Mind one, because I have a song that was up low of a baby and we had all the cards ready. And Sidney was presenting himself right after he presented we were going to get in the car was going to sort of put the people up, go back to the yard, pick up Sammy and go down and get the two boats.

Speaker And Sammy had three suits, four hundred videos, cameras.

Speaker He'd never been on a vacation before. And he sent us out to buy the wines while he brought the meat. And it was fantastic. And we had so much fun out of No.

Speaker One watching Sammy trying to weigh down because, you know, if you haven't been on a vacation before, you don't know really how to handle that first that you're supposed to be busy with that we have a fantastic time. And so I'm certain it came out of there. Yeah, man and wife is beautiful.

Speaker Yeah. And they're great. The most incredible couple ever.

Speaker Um, uh, from today's perspective, how would you characterize this place in American film is his legacy his contribution?

Speaker He said certainly invalid African-American.

Speaker So he really had to invalidate and the way he perfected the art just got better and better and more diversified and more courageous and.

Speaker He almost became an adjective with a proper name, it was an adjective because that was up until then, I'd say the last five years there was nobody like Sydney and there's still nobody like Sydney. But I mean, at least you have the choice, you know, Morgan Freeman and Denzel, Wesley Snipes, et cetera.

Speaker So you have a few to pick actors to pick from Sydney invented it. And it's like I guess like Jackie Robinson. It's not it's amazing to be first, but it also means only, you know, that's not good. And Sydney always was aware of this.

Speaker And that's why I was so touched the night of the show. We had a retrospective of the night and to hear Bernie and almost all of the youngsters, young Jack. So to praise him, because if he had been there, they wouldn't be there like like Sammy. He broke through barriers that he didn't even know Orson Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, you know, because he's coming to dinner. America's never seen anything like that before.

Speaker OK, sweetheart, if there is there anything else that you want to say about Cindy?

Speaker I have to say, sometimes I'm not sure I really mean this, I'm not sure that Sydney and that's why I was fascinated by Brother John, I'm not sure Sydney is from this planet because he his soul is that so many things, you know, I seen. It's like the jolt they have about Sydney Bellafante.

Speaker A lot of people that say Sydney doesn't have to pick up the check. And of course, he's got an aura and people that are still have to pick up check. But Sydney does. Sydney has.

Speaker He has he has said that thing. And Veronica PECC calls that Braunschweig. You know, that's Broncho. That means electrically connected to the universe. And he really does, you know, because he's got all the things that she married in the human spirit of compassion, concern for other people, you know, to US intelligence when he probes it, he's he's he's a fighter. He fights for his principles.

Speaker He's honest, he's too talented, and he's one of the best friends you can ever, ever, ever dream of having. I'm glad he's my big brother.

Speaker I'm glad you were glad that you were able to say that.

Quincy Jones
Interview Date:
1998-10-28
Runtime:
0:33:10
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-jq0sq8r46q, cpb-aacip-504-2j6833nf34, cpb-aacip-504-mk6542k10k
MLA CITATIONS:
"Quincy Jones, Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 28 Oct. 1998, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/869
APA CITATIONS:
(1998, October 28). Quincy Jones, Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/869
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Quincy Jones, Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). October 28, 1998. Accessed April 12, 2021 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/869