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Quincy Jones Says Ray Charles Got Him Hooked On Heroin When He Was 15

Quincy Jones is spilling all of the tea about his early life in his latest interview.

The 85-year-old told Vulture sat down with Scott Feinberg for the latest episode of The Hollywood Reporter’s  Awards Chatter podcast. During his interview, the legendary musician, composer, and producer revealed that it was Ray Charles who got him hooked on heroin.

“He got me hooked for five months at 15,” he said. “After we finished at the Washington Social Club and a couple of other ones, we’d all go down to Jackson Street to the Elks Club. That’s where all the bebop jam sessions were. Nobody got paid. We didn’t give a damn.”

“When they finished playing they’d go over in the corner, and they had it on their thumb,” he continued. “A year later, I just snuck in the line and got me a little hit.”

Jones also revealed another bombshell about him and Ray’s drug escapades. He said when the bands he played in traveled to New York, they would buy their heroin from the Harlem dope man Detroit Red, also known as a civil rights activist, Malcolm X.

Photo Credit: Instagram/@quincydjones

“We used to call him Detroit Red, have his Italian suits on,” he said. He joked that when Denzel Washington played the slain Muslim leader in 1992’s Malcolm X, he said he told Spike Lee that Malcolm couldn’t walk around in a blue zoot suit because he was a dope dealer.

He explained how he eventually kicked the habit. While returning home one night, he fell down a flight of stairs. From that moment on he said he lost the urge to use.

“The mistakes are what help you grow and learn,” he said. “If I hadn’t done that [fallen]  I would have been in New York, where I was hanging out with Charlie Parker. I would have been a junkie forever. Bird was always high. Thank God we did it and got it over with.”

Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

He went on to explain how his love for art propelled him in his journey for music.

“I see music before I hear it, the colors, purple-gray and stuff before the sound comes,” he said. “It comes in colors; I think about that when I write.”

“I found out a long time ago that the best position to be in — in this city [Hollywood] — is to be underestimated,” he added.  “If they underestimate you, they get out of your way.”

Jones was on the podcast with his daughter promoting his upcoming biopic, Quincy, which premiered on September 21st on Netflix.  To listen to the whole interview click here.

This is not the first time Jones has made headlines with one of his interviews. Earlier this year, he sat down with Vulture and dished some slat on the King of Pop, saying Michael Jackson stole more music than people realized.

“I hate to get into this publicly,” he revealed, publicly, “but Michael stole a lot of stuff. He stole a lot of songs. [Donna Summer’s] ‘State of Independence’ and ‘Billie Jean.’ The notes don’t lie, man. He was as Machiavellian as they come.”

But he followed his statement up by saying his work with Michael was successful in bringing different eras together and kept “the ear busy”; something he said he does not feel as much in modern music.

Jones co-produced Jackson’s “Off The Wall” and “Thriller” album. When its all said and done, Jones has had an extraordinary life. And he continues to add to his legacy. Recently he launched a line of headphones with J Audio.

“Man, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on the last 85 years, partially due to rewatching parts of my journey in my new Netflix film,” he reflected on his Instagram this week. “And I have to say; life is an absolutely beautiful thing. Isn’t it? We’ve all got something unique to offer this world, but you just need to realize that no one else is going to figure it out for you. For me, as a kid, music was the one thing I could control & offer, & I made it a point to learn everything I could about it. Never did I think that in doing so, I was laying a foundation for my future, & it would one day lead me to travel the world & experience the beauty of different cultures, or have the honor of reaching millions with my music… ”


By Alexia McKay

Twitter: @alexiamckayprod

Facebook: facebook.com/alexiamckayprod 

CEO/EIC of RoyalTee Magazine