Spoiled Children of Divorce


Exemplary Children of Divorce – Quincy Jones

I heard Music Composer and Producer Quincy Jones in an interview on NPR this afternoon (Nov. 27 or 28, sorry for late publishing).  Part of the discussion was about Jones’ childhood which he speaks about with a rare openness.  His Mother was schizophrenic and spent much of her life in a mental hospital.  In his Autobiography he describes watching the authorities strapping her in to a straight jacket and hauling her off.  Jones’  Father remarried around the time that Jones was 11 years old and he moved the new family from Chicago to Bremerton in Washington state.  His Step Mother was a bad influence who treated Jones and his younger Brother very badly, giving them less food and clothes than the other children.  I’m listening to the audiobook version of his Autobiography and can’t quote exactly but Jones describes her handling of the children in the Household in that she “Divided the kids into three categories:  His, Hers and Theirs.”  Jones’ schizophrenic Mother periodically escaped the Mental Hospital and eventually followed her sons to Washington where she both terrified them through her illness and tried to stay in touch with them. 

In the interview, Jones describes living in his Father’s household as “living with strangers.”   He gives good advice about how one must not hold these experiences in.  For him this happened mostly by escaping into his music.  It helps that he had huge amounts of talent.  The music industry can be very hard on someone from this background who doesn’t have quite the level of talent  (– that’s just a warning.)

I highly recommend the audiobook.  Most interesting, of course, is listening about Jones’ accomplishments in his profession.  He met Ray Charles, for example, when he was 14 years olds and Charles was 16.  But Jones’ insights into his family are very helpful.  He talks about his anger at his parents and how he blamed his Father for what was happening more than his Mothers “Because he was the one who kept it together.”  This is true.  You really do blame the one the most who is reacting to the whole situation with the least amount of reaction.  He talks about not understanding how he was much less affected by what happened than his younger brother who used to cry every night.

During an Internet search I found this article (http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/jon0int-2) in which he describes his childhood and how his brother’s reaction to the family situation was so much more negative.  I wonder if a lot of the reason for this is , of course, 1) inherited genetic disposition to mental problems  which would be the only thing the psych people consider (which is why they can’t actually help anyone). Birth order (Jones is eldest) could also be a huge factor as I’ve discussed before.  The oldest seem to be the ones who make it out, they always have someone to face the problems with and they always have the youngest to come home to as a stable base.  The youngest have longer exposure to the family and must deal with it by themselves after the oldest have left. They have no stable base.  And, of course, another reason could be that the younger brother didn’t have the talent and/or luck of his older brother.  Jones was extremely gifted and successful from an early age and his talent was recognized.  He found an identity early on outside of the family and left the home early, around Age 16.  This seems to be a key factor in surviving bad Divorce situations.   Those extra years of waiting to get out are a real spirit killer.

I also found an interview with his son Quincy Jones III who also speaks briefly about his parents’ divorce when he was 3 or 4.  He moved with his Mother to Sweden.  He talks about his relationship with his Father, his Mother’s addiction, his childhood, the divorce:

TONY: How much of your parents divorce did you understand and comprehend? I mean, you were pretty young.

QD3: I never thought about it until I turned 15-years-old. My parents got divorced when I was 3 or 4, and me and my mother and sister moved to Sweden. I was probably too young to process it. And I didn’t think about it until I was going through a photo album when I was 15-years-old, and I was like, “Wait a minute, we don’t really know each other that well.” And I’d visit him in L.A. on summer break, but for the rest of the year I was in another country. I would sometimes bring Michael Jackson records to school (in Sweden) to show my friends what my father did, and they would laugh and think I was lying because we lived in public housing. And it kind of struck a nerve, and I started thinking about it a little more. Then I was around 16-years-old, and I moved to East Harlem, New York and later the South Bronx, and then to L.A. Once I moved to L.A., we started bonding a lot more. Now we’re good friends and we’re also very alike in many ways.

TONY: You talked about your mother earlier and her battle with drug addiction. Personally, my mother passed away after a long battle with prescription medication and alcohol. If someone is reading our interview and dealing with a similar situation in their family, what’s your advice on how to deal with it?

QD3: Sorry to hear that, it’s tough, because in my situation I tried to help her my entire life and tried to “fix” the situation. And I was not able to do it. So I would say try to be as objective as you can and try to have compassion for your parents. Also know that it’s not your fault, that’s the main thing.

It’s up to you if you want to break the family cycles. With the pain comes long term benefits, and I might not have been drawn to socially relevant media had it not been for my upbringing and some of the stuff that I went through when I was younger: Having seen both extremes of society first hand (rich/poor), having to grow up quick and moving a lot gave me the tools, drive and empathy that I needed for the job I want do now which is build an (urban) multimedia company (qd3.com) that creates programming of substance that is relatable, empowering, deals with “real” issues, is entertaining and has residual value to viewers. My background gave me the ability to relate to all walks of life and levels of society organically, from the ghetto to the elite, so I feel I was put in a position to build helpful bridges of understanding between various demographics through media. So my advice is believe in yourself and try to find a way to turn your past into a benefit. Painful experiences give you drive, strength and compassion to do bigger things than you would otherwise have been capable of, use it as fuel.

from:  http://www.nobodysmiling.com/hiphop/interview/87592.php


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