Oprah Talks to Quincy Jones
Oprah: And there's never been anything like "We Are the World" since.
Quincy: Someone wants to try another "We Are the World" idea every week. I have four pitches upstairs—"We Are the Ocean" and stuff. But you've got to do something different, something exciting. I think that's the secret to life: Never finish. I see these suckers retiring and I think, "Why? To prepare to die?" How long can you get massaged and play tennis in Hawaii? Please! Oprah, after a year of that, they'd take you away to the funny farm, babbling—and I'd be right behind you! Picasso painted until he was 91. He sat with a bottle of wine and friends and laughed and made love to his lady and died in his sleep. That's the way to go.
Oprah: I agree. Q, I know that when you were 41, you nearly lost your life to a brain aneurysm. Was that a wake-up call?
Quincy: Oh, baby, yes. It made me realize that if I lived to age 82, I would have about 30,000 days on this earth. And that number had to be cut in thirds—I'd sleep for 10,000 days, work for 10,000 days, then do whatever else in the remaining time. After the aneurysm, the doctor told me that deep in our subconscious, each of us has either a life force or a death wish. He said those who have a death wish can be taken out by the flu. But the ones who have a life force survive. When they operated on my brain, they had to tie my hands down because even under all the anesthesia the doctors used when they cut my head open, I was fighting to survive.
Oprah: After The Color Purple was released, you seemed to be on a downward spiral. What were you going through?
Quincy: A lot: My marriage with Peggy was a mess, and we were moving into a new home. But you know what hit me the hardest? The Oscars. It kicked my ass.
Oprah: I just read that The Color Purple tied a record as the film with the highest number of nominations—11—that didn't win an Oscar.
Quincy: I was devastated. And in the middle of that, Peggy's mother died. I began taking Halcion. I hadn't been able to sleep, so my [former] doctor prescribed it. I didn't know what the effects of Halcion were [in some cases, it can change your thinking and behavior], and I got strung out.
Oprah: You've said the Halcion blocked your dreams at night.
Quincy: Right. I didn't dream for ten months.
Oprah: Did you think you were repeating your mother's cycle of mental illness?
Quincy: Yes. Another physician, Dr. Larry Norton, an oncologist who had worked with Peggy's mother, finally told me I had an adrenal syndrome. He said I was in big physical, mental, and medical trouble, and that I had to take off work.
Oprah: So you went to Tahiti to find yourself?
Quincy: They had more nutty characters than me over there. It was great! But when I came home, I was more messed up than ever. I had this demon look in my eyes, as if my soul had left my body. I finally had to face the end of my marriage, which was really scary. I said to myself, "Your ass is in trouble." I couldn't even write music, Oprah. All my feelings were gone. I couldn't cry—nothing.