Quincy (continued): Black music is the most powerful music on the planet. We have an amazing heritage: Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Earth, Wind & Fire. And until I die, I'm going to put most of my life into helping us understand our own power. It's the first step for self-esteem. We have something to hold on to because the whole world has decided to adopt our music—not string quartets, not bagpipes, but black music from the Delta and New Orleans and Chicago. It drives the entire planet musically, and it's not just the music of one or two people but of an entire group. It represents every black person who ever lived and all those who had their asses kicked.
Oprah: That's so true. Now let's talk about Michael Jackson. When you did Thriller with him in the early eighties, did you know it would become a huge success?
Quincy: Did you know you would become as successful as you have? Hell, no. But you know what? You were prepared, baby. I love what you say about luck being a matter of opportunity meeting preparation—that's what it's all about. Michael had the look and the voice, and I had every sound you can think of. By then I'd done enough movies to understand drama—and my arranging has a sense of drama to it.
Oprah: As you've said, you always knew you wanted to be the greatest arranger.
Quincy: Subconsciously I knew that, but I didn't understand the size of it. I improvised my life along the way—I just moved step-by-step. And I knew that if I got better, something would happen.
Oprah: That's how I feel.
Quincy: And what happens when you get a big break and you haven't prepared yourself? That becomes the biggest mistake you've ever made. I see it happen all the time.
Oprah: Yes. And once you create a vision for yourself and work toward it, you must surrender that vision to a power bigger than yourself.
Quincy: And you have to understand that there's power in the collective. If you don't believe me, just watch a symphony orchestra with a conductor and 120 people who are thinking about exactly the same thing at the same moment—no babies, no stock markets, no mortgages. Just 32nd notes.
Oprah: I got it—that's concentrated energy going into one note!
Quincy: That power is what got me wanting to write music for the big bands. And the principle of collective power applies to everything in life, whether it's "We Are the World" or anything else.
Oprah: Where did the idea for "We Are the World" come from?
Quincy: Before Thriller, I did an album with Donna Summer. In the middle of one song, there was a big hole for a big choir. I thought, "I may as well get the best choir." So I called Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, and others. One-third of "We Are the World" was on that album.
We Hear You!