You’re in Dubai to launch ‘Tomorrow-Bokra’, a charity single for the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture: a reworking of your 1986 hit ‘Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me)’. What have you learnt from the 24 Arabic stars who contributed to the song?
They’ve got a music that represents their birthplace. It’s the same all over the world. What blows my mind is that everybody knows what everybody else is doing. Back in the days of Ghengis Khan, and even the Holocaust, people had no idea if other people were living better than them or not. You’ve got to understand that it wasn’t Kennedy and Reagan who brought down the Berlin Wall – it was television. The Arab Spring could never have happened without the internet.
Where do you think the Arab Spring is going?
Wherever it can go – they go wherever they can and they have no fear. We’ve gone from silicon to microchips – in 10 years there will be a $1,000-computer a billion times faster than the stuff we’ve got, so it can go wherever they take it, man. Google jumps up – nobody had heard of Google 10 years ago. Facebook – Mark Zuckerburg and Sean Parker came to see me first [to invest]. I didn’t know what they were talking about. I don’t feel like I missed out, we’re with Google now.
Technology has changed the world – do you think there will be another star of Michael Jackson’s magnitude today?
I don’t think about that man. It doesn’t work like that, you can’t be another anybody; you have to have (Jackson’s) background in Indiana, the crazy father, all that stuff.
I’ve always wanted to know what you said to Miles Davis to convince him to do the Monteux project [Davis’s last concert in 1991, which saws the trumpeter revisit his acoustic heyday work for the first time in 30 years]?
I had been trying 15 years to get him to do that. I’ve known Miles all my life, we were close friends; I was there in a recording session in 1958 where they did Miles Ahead with Gil Evans conducting. It was amazing. I said ‘Dewey, this one we’ve got to do a tribute to.’ It was fantastic man. That night onstage he turned to me and said “s**** you!” He was like Sinatra. Those guys both had their big tough thing but they’re extremely subtle. Frank was exactly the same, that’s why I always wear the ring he left me – Sicilian family gold – I don’t even need a passport to go to Sicily.
People say Sinatra’s the best singer ever...
Yes he was. Your music can never be more or less than you are as a human being. Frank was that person. He told me every night we got off with (Count) Basie [recording 1966 live album Sinatra at the Sands] that he thought it was one of the best gigs he had, and I felt the same way. The three of us together in Las Vegas – it was ridiculous. He said ‘live every day like it’s your last and one day you’ll be right’. And we partied man, you’ve got to know how to party. You know how to party? You know! It’s very important man.
‘Tomorrow-Bokra’ is out now.