Jonesactivist, entrepreneur, musician, composer and producer of film and musicstill has some work to do. Like spearheading a massive industry-wide push for the Obama administration to create a Secretary of the Arts cabinet post, so this country is a champion not only of freedom but of culture. With 240,000 signatures and counting in an online petition, Jones will likely get his way. His organization, Listen Up, continues to tackle the ramifications of poverty around the world, including in South Africa, where it has built more than 100 homes with Habitat for Humanity and helped educate local youth.
At 76 Jones hasn't yet passed the baton, Nicole Avant, his goddaughter, is running with it anyway. Avant, the daughter of Motown Records mogul Clarence Avant, has a career that ranges from acting to activism to serving as VP of Interior Music/Avant Garde Music Publishing. Most recently, she added a feather to her cap when she helped deliver the Golden State to Barack Obama as California Finance Cochair of his campaign. Her godfather and spiritual anchorJonessupported Hillary Clinton, but these two kindred souls show they have plenty in common as they speak of their shared history and passionate pursuits.
Quincy Jones: You have come into your own, but you were a gangster with my daughters when they were young.
Nicole Avant: But I thought I was the good one! [Laughs.] I have a great picture of my parents and youdear godfatherat my mother's baby shower for me. And it's the greatest, because it's 1968, and there's such joy. My mom is just standing there with a big belly, and you and my father are behind her.
Q: You know, your mother's the same now as she was thenthat joie de vivre. You've always been connected to that same vibe. How old are you, anyway?
NA: I turned 41 in March.
Q: What?! Older than me! I've got three daughters older than me.
NA: [Laughs.] Can you believe it? I was telling my dad on New Year's Eve, "Daddy! All your friends that I've known growing up are here! What do you think that means?" And I meant on a spiritual level, but he said, "Your ass is old if you're spending New Year's Eve with my friends!"
NA: I was trying to remember when you were living on Stone Canyon and had that studio on the side of the house. I must have been 12. I couldn't sleep, and I remember sneaking out to the studio, and you said it was okay for me to be there as long as I didn't make noise. I think it was the first time I ever saw you in your creative space. And I remember lying there, watching you, and you were writing, writing, writing, and then you'd throw it away. Testing, testing, testingand you were getting angry. It was the first time I had seen you frustrated, but it was great because you wanted it. I could tell it wasn't coming out the way you had it in your heart. I don't know which Michael Jackson album you were working on, but it taught me about creativityowning it and wanting it to be right. And now I notice in my life, as I have come into my own, everyone says, "You're such a perfectionist. You're too hard on yourself." I always go back to that memory, thinking, No, I just know the vision in my mindhow I hear it and how I want to see it. It's not about being in control; it's about owning the energy you feel and seeing it manifested in the way you want it. So many years later, and I remember that so vividly.
Q: When you're doing a record, you better get it right. To me, the studio's very sacred, so magical thingsvery special thingshave to happen there. That's why I never want a studio
in my houseguys walking around
in their underwear at 3 in the morning. You know what I mean? That's not spiritual at all.
Q: But then it happens. I think back to 1971I was recording Aretha some-where, and she was playing piano, and Ray Brown's voice like God walked through the room. Amazing.
NA: Skin crawling.
Q: And that's the way I feelif I give goose bumps, somebody else can give goose bumps, too. Stop trying to tell me about surveys and focus groups. I don't worry about no focus groups. Here's your focus group, right here...