UPDATED: Plans for a Grammy-related CBS all-star special to celebrate legendary producer Quincy Jones’ 85th birthday have been scrapped, a source confirms to Variety. The source added that Jones’ company was shopping the company independently of CBS and the Recording Academy, and may have gotten a positive initial reception from BET.
While initial reports said that veteran producer Don Mischer would helm the special instead of longtime Grammy EP Ken Ehrlich, a source says Ehrlich is on board. Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith and Eddie Murphy reportedly are among the artists who earlier committed to the special.
The news of the CBS split was first reported on Deadline.com.
Jones — a veteran composer and producer who has worked with artists ranging from Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles to Miles Davis, but most famously Michael Jackson’s hot streak of “Off the Wall,” “Thriller” and “Bad” — was lined up for an all-star special along the lines of recent Grammy/CBS ones for Elton John, the Beatles and Stevie Wonder, with his 85th birthday as the theme. But the source confirms that CBS and the Academy pulled the plug after two talent-confirmation deadlines passed without enough superstars of sufficient caliber, and the end of 2018 loomed (which would spoil the 85th-birthday angle). The special was never officially announced by the network.
In a joint statement, CBS and the Academy said: “We were very excited about the opportunity to honor Quincy Jones with a dedicated music special. He’s an incredible and beloved artist who has contributed so much to music and entertainment. Although our collective passion and will for the project was there, due to scheduling issues, the stars weren’t aligned to bring the project to fruition.”
A rep for Jones did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
It also remains unclear what impact a controversial interview Jones gave to New York magazine earlier this year — in which he claimed without evidence that he knew who killed John F. Kennedy; that Michael Jackson stole many of his hit songs; and that Marlon Brando had had sex with Richard Pryor, James Baldwin, and Marvin Gaye — might have had on potential stars’ participation in the special; the source said it had no impact on CBS’ decision. Jones subsequently apologized for the interview.
A Netflix documentary on Jones, directly by his daughter Rashida, is scheduled to premiere on Sept. 21.