Here’s what I said on Twitter on Thursday afternoon (March 19). 3:45 p.m.: Quincy Jones may still be going on at next year’s sxsw. Amazing guy but I had to leave after 1 1/2 hours … 4:09 p.m.: I meant to say “Quincy Jones’ speech,” in case anyone thinks he was playing music. There was a piano on stage, but he hadn’t touched it yet.
Yes, SXSW keynote speaker Quincy Jones did talk for a long time. He was scheduled to speak for an hour and 15 minutes. I left at the 90-minute mark. I later saw in the local press that he ended up talking for two and a half hours. I hated to walk out while a living legend was speaking, but I had other places to go.
Jones reminisced about growing up in Chicago and Seattle and working with the biggest names in music, including Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson. It was fascinating at times, and I always cherish the opportunity to spend some time listening to someone of Jones’ stature in person, but he did ramble a bit.
A few choice quotes from Jones:
“When you get over the hill, that’s when you really pick up speed … The bad news is … sex after 90 is like shooting pool in the middle of the road.” (Jones, who is 76, says that what’s heard, at least.)
“I’ve been called the ghetto Gump. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
On the most important musical innovation he’s witnessed in his lifetime: “Without the electric bass, there’d be no rock ‘n’ roll … and there’d be no Motown.”
On Frank Sinatra: “He loved you and respected you, or he would roll over you backwards in a Mack truck. No in between.”
On how to tell if a musician’s “got it”: “You can tell if they’ve got it if you recognize them in the first 20 seconds of their record.”
On jazz: “It’s the balance between soul and science.”
“Anyone who says they know how to sell 50 million records is lying and smoking Kool-Aid.”