1984 - December: "Ebony" Magazine Interview (with excerpts added from "JET" interview, 1979) PDF Print E-mail

On giving earnings from an album titled "Let’s Beat It", to charity:

"Children are my biggest inspiration in anything I do. I adore children — crazy about them. I wanted to write a song ("Beat It"), the type of rock song that I would buy. I wanted the kids to really enjoy it, the school kids, as well as the college kids."

On coping with the stress and pressures of entertainment business:

"I cope with it in a way - and I’m not calling myself Jesus, because I would never even look at myself on the same level - , but I’m comparing it to Jesus, because what God gave to Him was for a reason, and he preached, and people came about him and he didn’t get angry and push them aside and say leave me alone, I ain’t got time."

On his admiration for Black history and their efforts in the book reading field:

"I’m really thankful for what Mr. (John H.) Johnson has done in bringing books through Johnson Publications. I think it’s good to show we are contributing to the world in many ways. That’s what a lot of people think — that we haven’t."

On other sources of information / education about Black people’s lifestyle and mentality:

"I love the way (John H.) Johnson runs his organization. Seems like everybody’s really nice. I’m sure there are quarrels and things, but everybody’s very nice….and have such an influence on the young. People rule their lives by JET and EBONY. I mean, they get their information from those two magazines and the young kids, too. I’ll say, where did you read it? "I read it in JET". And they keep up with what’s happening in JET and EBONY. And I think that’s wonderful…God, I admire people like Johnson and [Walt] Disney. I think they’re phenomenal."

On the role travels play in shaping the outlook on life:

"I think before anybody gets married, they should really travel the world if they can. It’s the most incredible education I’ve ever had. I think it’s phenomenal. I mean just to see the different cultures of people, the different faces, to talk to people and just to learn and see. When I traveled, I was amazed. When we first went to Switzerland, I almost started crying. I really did. […] A lot of people just stay in the cities when they travel. They should get out and see the real country. […]"

On singer Stevie Wonder’s music creeds, similar to his:

"That’s why I love Stevie Wonder’s biggest-selling album, called ‘Songs in the Key of Life’. He has a song on that album called ‘Black Man’. I just jumped up screaming when I heard that record, because he’s showing the world what the Black man has done and what other races have done, and he balanced it beautifully by putting other races in there, what they have done. Then he brings out what the Black Man has done. Instead of naming it another thing, he named it "Black Man". That’s what I loved about it. And that’s the best way to bring about the truth, through song. And that’s what I love about it."

On drug consumption:

"In the field I’m in, there is a lot of that and it gets offered to me all the time. People even go as far as to just stick it in your pocket and walk off. Now, if it was a good thing, they wouldn’t do that. I mean, would somebody drop something beautiful in my pocket and just walk off? But I don’t want to have anything to do with any of that. I mean, as corny as it sounds, but this is how I really believe: Natural highs are the greatest highs in the world. Who wants to take something and just sit around for the rest of the day after you take it (drugs), and don’t know who you are, what you’re doing, where you are? Take in something that’s gonna inspire you to do greater things in the world."

On the questions he would like to be asked, and on inappropriate song lyrics:

"Probably about children or writing, or what I just talked about. You don’t make a better world of minds and things when people put the wrong things in their lyrics and give the wrong views on stage and everything. It’s just so important and I think this can lead so many people astray, because an artist can be built up so big in his career that this could change the whole world by what he does and thinks. They’ll listen to him before the President or any of these big politicians. You have to be careful. They could change these peoples’ way of life by what they say and do. That’s why it’s important to give off love vibes and that’s why I love what I do. When Marvin Gaye put out the album, ‘What’s Going On’, so many Blacks, as well as Whites — but mainly Blacks — were educated. ‘Wake up. What’s going on? Wake up.’ I mean, the ones that don’t watch the news, don’t read the papers to really dig in the depths of humanism. What’s going on? Wake up."

On "raunchy" song lyrics by some popular music groups:

"Sometimes they go too far. They don’t leave anything for the imagination. If I just walked out on stage naked, there’s no imagination. I’m not letting them imagine what I look like without the clothes. But you see, they overdo it….We got to leave them something to imagine. People go too far at times. I think it’s important to set the right example, because there are so many kids who look up to us."