Oprah: In my imagination I could never have conceived of a person with a life as big as yours. Do you sometimes marvel at your life?

Quincy: It's unrecognizable to me. I look back and say, "This must have been somebody else." I am not going to tell you that when I was 4, I dreamed about all of this—give me a break. Back then, black musicians didn't know how to dream this big—the media is what lets entertainers dream so big now. A hit could take 12 years to get around by word of mouth! Now with satellite and videos, it's like, whoa.
Oprah: I know your beginnings in Chicago gave you the drive to become who you are today. Did you feel loved in your home?

Quincy: I don't remember feeling love. I was with my brother, Lloyd, a lot because my father, whom I loved more than anyone in the world, worked so hard as a carpenter. When he was with us, I felt love from him, but he was just busy—like I was when my kids were growing up.

Oprah: You've written that your mother was mentally ill. When did you first know that?

Quincy: When she threw my coconut cake outside on the back porch on my birthday. I was 5 or 6 and it freaked me out. I didn't understand it, because in my mind that cake was a symbol of what family was supposed to be about. That stuck a long time—even now, I don't like coconut.

Oprah: You once told me that you also remember when your mother was put into a straitjacket.

Quincy: Until 1989 I totally blocked that out. When I was working on Listen Up [a 1990 documentary of Quincy's life], I went back to my old neighborhood. I was hoping our house had become a supermarket, but it was the same, with the same paint my father had put on it. That day I saw my friend Lucy, who had been our next-door neighbor and was a young girl when I'd last seen her. She was 63 and in a wheelchair. When we went into my old house, Lucy said, "When you go upstairs, you'll see where they took your mother and put her in the straitjacket." She thought I remembered that—but I didn't. They say trauma is frozen, and when Lucy said that, it was as if someone slapped me on the head.

Oprah: When your mother went into a mental institution, you went to live with your grandmother in Louisville, Kentucky. When I lived with my grandmother, I was poor—but you-all were po'!

Quincy: Honey, it was raggedy. My grandmother had this high-tech security system—a rusty nail she used to lock the door. And in the winter, there was literally frost on the floor. But when you're 7, you don't care. It only freaks you out when you're 40 and think back on it. My grandmother was tough, too. I know she loved us, but she didn't know how to express it.


Next Story