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Legendary producer Quincy Jones talks music industry, hall of fame and Michael Jackson

It’s one thing to be known by a single moniker – Cher, Bono, Adele, Usher.

But Quincy Jones is so cool, he only needs a letter – that instantly recognizable Q.

The legendary producer/trumpeter/composer/TV and film producer/social activist will forever be associated with Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” and “Thriller” albums and the ’80s star parade known as “We are the World.”

But a glance at Jones’ resume – years embedded with musical cornerstones, from Frank Sinatra to Ray Charles to Donna Summer – would make Ryan Seacrest feel lazy.

At 80 years old, Jones has no intention of lessening his workload, either.

His concert at the Fox Theatre on Thursday – hosted by the American Cancer Society – will feature his Global Gumbo All-Stars, including Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriguez and Canadian jazz-pop singer Nikki Yanofsky (he’s producing her album, due this year), as well as acapella group Pentatonix, Oscar-nominated R&B singer Siedah Garrett and soul singer Allen Stone.

A couple of more readily familiar names are also on the bill: James Ingram and Patti Austin.

Jones, who received an honorary degree from Morehouse College in 2007 and spent a lot of time in Atlanta in the 1960s working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., chatted over the weekend from New York.

He also had a parting request: “Give Andrew Young my love.”

Q: Did you choose the lineup, given your long history with James Ingram and Patti Austin?

A: I’ve been Patti’s godfather since she was 4 years old. Dinah Washington introduced me to her. And James (Ingram), I found him, too. But all the kids (at this show) are family. We have a Cuban piano player, Alfredo Rodriguez, and I dare to say he’s the best on the piano that I’ve heard. Nikki (Yanofsky) is a monster as a singer. It’s a blessing to work with young people.

Q: What do you look for when you decide to work with someone?

A: Compassion and excellence. When they love what they’re doing, they work hard. We came from the school where we didn’t think about money or fame, just being a great musician.

Q: Do you think there are a lot of great musicians being cultivated now?

A: No, I don’t, and that is something that bothers me. They got dumbed down because they were more concerned with selling hubcaps and clothes and vodka than creating great music. Money comes from spirituality. It’s something you can’t see or taste or touch.

Q: How have you adapted over the years to the way the industry has changed?

A: The industry doesn’t change your production — you still do what you believe in. What’s sad is that there is 98 percent music piracy everywhere on the planet. It’s just terrible. What if these kids (who download music illegally) worked for me for two months and then I said, “I’m not going to pay you.” That’s just not right.

Q: You’re still working so hard. What do you attribute your stamina to?

A: Passion and probably genetics. I’m a global gumbo. But you look at Barry White and Isaac Hayes and Whitney (Houston) and Michael (Jackson). They all died much younger than me.

Q: You were so close to Michael Jackson. Does it pain you to see his final days being dragged out in court now?

A: It’s always been happening like that. There have been so many people that have come out and they’re always looking for money.

Q: You were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month. What did mean to you?

A: After 28 years, I’m honored because of my friends. The attitude of the organization has been strange to me, but I’ve got Oscars, Grammys, so I’m OK (laughs).

Q: So when you finally finish this amazing career, what do want to be remembered for?

A: You mean what do I want on my tombstone?

Q: OK, sure.

A: Quincy Jones. Born 1933. Died…(pauses) 2045. He was a good daddy.

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For more of the Quincy Jones interview, visit The Music Scene blog at www.accessatlanta.com.

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