I don't deserve a Songwriters Hall of Fame Award. But fifteen years ago, I had a brain operation and I didn't deserve that, either. So I'll keep it.
Imagine what a harmonious world it could be if every single person, both young and old shared a little of what he is good at doing.
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.
I got in the school band and the school choir. It all hit me like a ton of bricks, everything just came out. I played percussion for a while, and stayed after school forever just tinkering around with different things, the clarinets and the violins.
We were in the heart of the ghetto in Chicago during the Depression, and every block - it was probably the biggest black ghetto in America - every block also is the spawning ground practically for every gangster, black and white, in America too.
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.
That will always be my music, man. I play 'Kind of Blue' every day -- it's my orange juice. It still sounds like it was made yesterday.
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.
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.
We stole a box of honey jars one time and went out in the woods and took care of the whole box. I don't think I touched honey again for 20 years. I never wanted to see honey again.
They said, 'Why don't you make a hit record' I said, 'It's not a big deal.' Because jazz musicians, there was a syndrome there. And the first record I had out was (Lesley Gore's) 'It's My Party.' I was trying to get her to change her name and I had to go to Tokyo for three weeks. I said, 'We'll fix it when I get back.' So, as soon as I got back it was No. 1. We did it, man. We had 19 hits in four years. Unbelievable.
I got a scholarship to Seattle University and I was writing arrangements for singers and everybody. But the music course was too dry and I really wanted to get away from home.
We spent most of our life almost like street rats just running around the street until we were ten years old.
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.
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.
Ray Charles is a giant. He was one of my mentors. He would write arrangements in Braille, and translate it to me. At 14 and 16 we used to sit in Seattle on those rainy days and dream about what would happen.
I am committing myself to doing everything possible to pull the resources together to aid the children of not only Cambodia, but the children of all the countries in the world.
It's worth about a half-billion dollars now. He had magazine publishing, too, with Liberty. It's ironic because I ended up being the founder of Vibe magazine. There are just a few people who will teach you what that's about.
It's amazing how much trouble you can get in when you don't have anything else to do.
Just blow in it and sound bad for about a year and then make it sound a little bit better, and you get a little band together, and then you get a few jobs. You take four guys that sound half bad, but if they're 25 percent each, they can give 100 percent, you know?
Let's not get too full of ourselves. Let's leave space for God to come into the room.
I went with Lionel Hampton for three years. Out of that came a trip to Europe.
I've never looked back in my life. I don't want to see that stuff. I had blanked out a lot of stuff ... putting my mother in a straitjacket, my father holding her down, screaming.
Tony is the one who knows how to fly us to the moon and get us back.
Peace is possible around the world, and children are the answer.
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.
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