NEW YORK -- Nearly 20 years ago, legendary producer and media mogul Quincy Jones gathered about 45 top musicians, including Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen, for the charity song "We Are The World."
Now Jones has today's hottest acts, like Jay-Z and Norah Jones, set to perform in "We Are The Future," a benefit concert scheduled for May 16. (Go ahead, sing the song.) Proceeds will go toward opening centers for children in six war-torn areas.
The first center opened in early April in Kigali, Rwanda. Others are slated for Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Palestine and Eritrea. Each will differ based on needs, but most will have access to medicine, arts, sports and information on hygiene and nutrition. They will be run by the Global Youth Parliament, which will teach area kids how to run educational programs there for other children.
At 71, Jones has traveled all the world and seen it all, from total poverty to extreme wealth. He just hopes that other people will be willing help others, and to pick up where he leaves off.
AP: Will "We Are The World" be performed at the concert?
Jones: (Laughs) Nah, I don't think so. We did it already.
AP: Is Michael Jackson going to perform?
Jones: He's never asked and we've never brought it up. We're just trying to do what we do here. People are trying to get all 'Fox News' about it and blow this out of proportion.
AP: What about all the stuff that's going on with the Jackson family? You were once pretty close with them. (Jones produced several of Jackson's chart-busting albums, including "Thriller.")
Jones: Look, I'm not into this. I've shared a very positive side of Michael and I'm not in a position to judge. And this "Nipplegate" thing. I don't understand it. There is so much drama connected with these things. But look, people are starving, and that's important.
AP: You were around, and involved, during times of social activism like the Civil Rights movement. How do you think activism has changed?
Jones: I think it's a Zen thing. It's the best of times, and the worst of times. The changes are happening all over this country. I think still, though, you have to just keep your head focused on what you are doing. There are a lot of people in trouble, and we need to know about it. Pay attention to it. I think people get preoccupied more and think someone else will take care of it.
AP: What is a celebrity's role in activism?
Jones: The number one thing they can do is be informed. You have to be. Second, like Bono always says, it's like a form of currency, you have to know how to spend it. You have to spend it well, and do the right things with it.
AP: When you first started doing music it was big band jazz - what do you think of popular music now?
Jones: Bebop was a walk. An attitude. Seductive, you know? It was much more than a subculture. But hip-hop is getting big time, it's influencing the whole world, and I think what's happening is the entire world is pushing aside indigenous music to adopt our music. I don't care where you go, black or white, they are stuck with these little compartmentalized tastes and don't ever explore the full breadth of American music.
AP: So, do you like popular music?
Jones: I love it. If I had it my way I'd have people listen to the whole menu. There's no accident that Paul Simon went to South Africa to record "Graceland." Cross pollination will happen even more if we let it. And oh, think of the music we can make.
AP: On a summer day, what song would you sing really, really loud with the windows down in your car?
Jones: I just love (the jazz standard) "How do you Keep the Music Playing." I'd jam to that.