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When I was 13, I started working in a nightclub with Ray Charles. That's the greatest school in the world, the school of the streets. Ray taught me how to read in Braille. He was only two years older than me, but it was like he was 100 years older.
When you produce an album, you're dealing with it theatrically. It has to have a structure, and the inner response to that is that the ear loves it.
I believe that a hundred years from now, when people look back at the 20th century, they will look at Miles, Bird, Clifford Brown, Ella and Dizzy, among elders as our Mozarts, our Chopins, our Bachs and Beethovens.
When you work with Ray Charles, Billy Eckstine and Frank Sinatra, and you tell them to jump without a net, you better know what you're talking about. Thank God I was ready for it.
When I was about five or seven years old my mother was placed in a mental institution and so we were with our father who worked very hard, and we had to figure a lot of things out.
If you started in New York you were dealing with the biggest guys in the world. You're dealing with Charlie Parker and all the big bands and everything. We got more experience working in Seattle.
I've never been bored in my life, man. I've never been bored or lonely. Are you kidding? No way! I'm an orchestrator, a musician, a producer. I love everything. I've studied languages from Farsi to Greek to French, Swedish, Russian... How can you get bored?
We got into all the trouble you could ever imagine. We figured that if the Jones boys and all the gangsters ran Chicago, we had our own territory now. All the stores, all the crime, we were in charge of everything, my stepbrother and my brother.
Frank Sinatra took me to a whole new planet. I worked with him until he passed away in '98. He left me his ring. I never take it off. Now, when I go to Sicily, I don't need a passport. I just flash my ring.
My father was a carpenter, a very good carpenter. He also worked for the Jones boys. They were not family members, we weren't related at all. They started the policy racket in Chicago, and they had the five and dime store.
I only hope that one day, America will recognize what the rest of the world already has known, that our indigenous music gospel, blues, jazz and R&B is the heart and soul of all popular music; and that we cannot afford to let this legacy slip into obscurity, I'm telling you.
I think the attraction of 'American Idol' is about the basic human nature attitude that is, 'We can put you up there. But we can take you down.'
I was inspired by a lot of people when I was young. Every band that came through town, to the theater, or the dance hall. I was at every dance, every night club, listened to every band that came through, because in those days we didn't have MTV, we didn't have television.
It's easy to get next to music theory, especially between your peers and music classes and so forth. You just pay attention. I had a good ear, so I realized that printed music was just about reminding you what to play.
Cherish your mistakes, and you won't keep making them over and over again. It's the same with heartbreaks and girls and everything else. Cherish them, and they'll put some wealth in you.
It slaps your dignity just right. I loved the idea of these proud, dignified black men, and I saw the older ones wounded, and it wounded me ten times as much because I couldn't stand seeing them hurt like this.