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One of the most significant figures in entertainment for over five decades, Quincy Jones was a musician, producer, arranger, composer and media giant whose collaborations with the biggest names in the music industry - from Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis to Michael Jackson - created some of the greatest music ever recorded. A trumpet prodigy in his teens, he cut his teeth as an arranger during the jazz scene of the 1950s. By the 1960s, he was a vice-president at Mercury Records, an acclaimed musician in own right, and the composer of such memorable film scores as "The Pawnbroker" (1964) and "In Cold Blood" (1967). Though his own work was nothing less than stellar, his records for others - in particular, Jackson with Off the Wall and Thriller - achieved iconic status, elevating him to legend. In the 1980s and 1990s, he branched into film and television production, finding success with each endeavor, as well as pursuing philanthropic interests in the new millennium. His dedication to art and entertainment, his boundless abilities and his astonishing accomplishments made him one of the most important personalities in American culture for over five decades.Born Quincy Delight Jones, Jr., on the south side...
One of the most significant figures in entertainment for over five decades, Quincy Jones was a musician, producer, arranger, composer and media giant whose collaborations with the biggest names in the music industry - from Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis to Michael Jackson - created some of the greatest music ever recorded. A trumpet prodigy in his teens, he cut his teeth as an arranger during the jazz scene of the 1950s. By the 1960s, he was a vice-president at Mercury Records, an acclaimed musician in own right, and the composer of such memorable film scores as "The Pawnbroker" (1964) and "In Cold Blood" (1967). Though his own work was nothing less than stellar, his records for others - in particular, Jackson with Off the Wall and Thriller - achieved iconic status, elevating him to legend. In the 1980s and 1990s, he branched into film and television production, finding success with each endeavor, as well as pursuing philanthropic interests in the new millennium. His dedication to art and entertainment, his boundless abilities and his astonishing accomplishments made him one of the most important personalities in American culture for over five decades.
Born Quincy Delight Jones, Jr., on the south side of Chicago, IL on March 14, 1933, he was the son of semi-professional baseball player and carpenter Quincy Jones, Sr., and his wife, Sarah Francis Wells, an apartment manager and bank executive. Jones' mother suffered from schizophrenia, and spent much of his early years in mental hospitals, which created a distance between them that would not be repaired until his adulthood. Jones discovered music while in grade school, and after trying his hand at all the instruments in his band, he began playing the trumpet around the age of 10. His studies there were interrupted by his parents' divorce; after remarrying, Jones Sr., took his namesake and brother, Lloyd, to Bremerton, WA, where they lived with his second wife and three siblings. Three more children would soon follow, bringing the household count to eight.
A suburb of Seattle, Bremerton had a thriving nightlife thanks to an influx of navy men during World War II. The teenaged Jones began exploring the local music scene and met a young singer-pianist named Ray Robinson, who was performing blues and standards a la Nat "King" Cole under the name Ray Charles. The pair became fast friends and started their own combo. Their stint together was short-lived; Jones' proficiency on the trumpet earned him a scholarship to the Schillinger House, which eventually became known as the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. However, his time there was equally brief; freelance work as a music arranger for the likes of Count Basie, Dinah Washington and Tommy Dorsey spurred him to drop out of Schillinger and move to New York City in 1952. The following year, jazz vibraphonist Lionel Hampton hired him to join the brass section of his orchestra, where Jones - then barely in his twenties - was playing alongside such bonafide stars as Art Farmer and Clifford Brown. By 1956, he was performing in Dizzy Gillespie's band, which took him to South America and the Middle East as part of a State Department-sponsored goodwill tour. After his return to America, Jones landed a recording contract with ABC-Paramount and cut his first album, This is How I Feel About Jazz in 1956.
Jones relocated to Paris in 1957 to study with composers Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen. His tenure there was as busy as his career in the States. Jones worked as a music director for the French label Barclay, where he worked on records for French hit makers like Jacques Brel, as well as visiting artists and ex-patriates like Sarah Vaughn and Billy Eckstine. Jones also served as musical director for Harold Arlen's jazz musical "Free and Easy," which took him across the continent until 1960. Itching to lead his own outfit, he brought together a big band of 18 players, which criss-crossed Europe and America. However, the size of the band, which included the families of each member, kept its earnings in the red, forcing Jones to break up the group in order to rescue his finances. Salvation came in the form of Mercury Records chief Irving Green. Mercury, which owned Barclay, had been impressed with Jones' work in France, and hired him as a vice-president, which made him the first African-American to hold such a position in a white-owned company. Among his first successes for the label was "It's My Party," an effervescent pop hit for white singer Lesley Gore. Jones also kept his hand in the jazz and R&B field, producing and arranging hits for Sarah Vaughn and old friend Ray Charles, whose own career at Atlantic was skyrocketing.
In 1963, film director Sidney Lumet invited Jones to compose the score for his controversial film "The Pawnbroker," a harrowing drama about a Holocaust survivor haunted by memories of the past. Jones' score was widely praised, and led to a long and celebrated career as a film composer with versatility in nearly every genre He earned a Grammy nomination for his soulful score to "In the Heat of the Night" (1967), which featured a title track sung by Ray Charles, which was followed in quick succession by nominations for "The Lost Man" (1969), the Gregory Peck Western "Mackenna's Gold" (1969), and the Warren Beatty comedy "$" (1971). Golden Globe nominations came for the song "The Time for Love is Any Time" from "Cactus Flower" (1969), "Something More" from "Honky" (1971) and Sam Peckinpah's "The Getaway" (1972), while Academy Award nominations were presented for Best Original Song in "Banning" (1967), Best Score for the haunting "In Cold Blood" (1967), and Best Song for "For Love of Ivy" (1968). Jones also worked extensively in television during this period; among his most memorable small screen work were the themes to "Ironside" (NBC, 1967-1975), "Sanford and Son" (NBC, 1972-77) and the miniseries "Roots" (ABC, 1977).
During this incredibly prolific period, Jones also maintained his career in popular music. His association with Frank Sinatra, which had begun in 1958 after both were invited by Princess Grace to arrange a benefit concert in Monaco, continued through the 1960s, with arrangements for the albums It Might As Well Be Swing (1964) with Count Basie, and the legendary 1966 closed-circuit concert with Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and Johnny Carson. Other artists benefitting from the Jones touch included Sarah Vaughn, Count Basie and Peggy Lee, while Jones' own solo career yielded countless Grammy Awards and record sales in the millions. In the 1960s and '70s, Jones showed a dedication to civil rights and equality that equaled his passion for music. A disciple of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he supported Operation Breadbasket, which promoted economic development and stability in the inner city, and later served as a board member on the Reverend Jesse Jackson's PUSH organization. He also helped to found IBAM (the Institute for Black Music), which was established to create a national library of African-American arts and music, and the Black Arts Festival in Chicago. He also found time to become the first African-American musician to lead the orchestra at the Academy Awards in 1971.
Jones' incredible drive and output yielded amazing music, but it also nearly killed him. In 1974, he suffered a near-fatal brain aneurysm, which required two major operations and six months of recuperation. The experience forced him to examine his work habits and cut back on his schedule to spend more time with family and friends, which by this time included his famous wife, "Mod Squad" star Peggy Lipton, whom he married in 1974. However, Jones being Jones, this reduction of work still saw him producing, arranging, composing and recording music at a rate that would astonish most other musicians. He finished out his solo artist contract for A&M with 1981's hit The Dude, which earned a Grammy nomination for guest vocalist James Ingram, and began lending his talents to pop and rock artists like Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan. And as if all of his previous accomplishments had not been enough, he expanded into film and television production, beginning in 1973 with "Duke Elliington. We Love You Madly" (CBS, 1973), an all-star tribute to the iconic jazz performer.
In 1978, Jones worked with Michael Jackson on the soundtrack to the Berry Gordy-produced film adaptation of "The Wiz." Though the film was a costly failure, it established a connection between the two men, which resulted in Jones producing Jackson's 1979 album Off the Wall. The record was an unqualified smash, selling some 20 million records on the strength of tunes like "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" and "She's Out of My Life," and made both Jones and Jackson major players in the pop industry. However, its success could not hold a candle to their 1982 follow-up, Thriller, which made Jackson the most popular entertainer in the world for years. The album sold an estimated 110 million copies, making it the best-selling album in history, and won eight Grammys; its influence on the music industry, especially in regard to the impact of music videos for promoting an album and the ability for a black performer to appeal to white audiences, was immeasurable.
Jones' connection with Jackson - whom he affectionately called "Smelly" - became strained during the making of Thriller due to the singer's obsession with making the biggest album of all time, but the pair reunited twice more over the next decade. Jackson co-wrote and performed on the USA for Africa charity single "We Are the World," which Jones produced and conducted, as well as famously hung up the sign "Leave Your Ego at the Door" to the arriving music superstars who participated in the storied recording session in 1985. The pair split the producer's credit for Jackson's Bad (1987), their final collaboration together. Though they would never work again, the two became - with the exception of George Martin and The Beatles - the recording artist/producer team by which all others were measured. In fact so great was Jackson's fame in the early 1980s, that Jones became something of a star, himself, finding himself recognized by children and teens who would never have known who he was had he not been Jackson's producer/father figure.
In 1985, Jones became a full-fledged film producer when he worked on Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the Alice Walker novel, "The Color Purple." The film was a major success and netted him three Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Original Score. By 1993, he had become a major force in entertainment through his partnership with David Salzman; their company, QDE, in partnership with Time/Warner, Inc, produced hit television shows like "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (NBC, 1990-96), magazines like Vibe and Spin, and documentaries like the Emmy-nominated "History of Rock 'N' Roll" (syndicated, 1995). Jones also launched his own record label, Qwest, and his own broadcasting company, Qwest Broadcasting, all of which made him one of the most powerful and influential media moguls in the world.
In 1990, Jones' extraordinary history was the subject of a feature documentary, "Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones," which featured interviews with the major figures with whom he had collaborated over the course of his then-four-decade career. While most documentaries of this scope were usually positioned as punctuation on a career, Jones proved that "Listen Up" was simply breathing room before another burst of inspired creativity and production. In 1991, he returned to recording with Back on the Block, which brought together a vast array of Jones' musical compatriots and admirers, including Ray Charles, Barry White, Dionne Warwick, Chaka Khan and the final studio recordings of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn. The album was a smash hit, winning seven Grammys, including Album of the Year, and was quickly followed by Miles and Quincy Live at Montreux (1991). The album, which saw Jones' long-standing desire to have jazz legend Miles Davis revisit some of his classic '60s recordings, was another hit and a fitting cap to Davis' extraordinary career. The trumpeter passed away only months after its release. Jones rounded out the decade by claiming the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 1995 Academy Awards.
In 2001, Jones published Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones. Again, the book served as a brief respite in his busy life. In addition to his producing and consulting capacities, Jones served as an honorary member of the board of directors for the Jazz Foundation of America and HealthCorps, and launched the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation and the We are the Future project; both of which were devoted to aiding children to have better access to technology, education and culture. What precious little free time Jones had was spent collecting an impressive array of honors for his legendary career, including the Polar Music Prize in 1994, Commander of the Legion of Honor in France in 2001, the George and Ira Gershwin Award in 2007, and the Humanitarian honor from the BET Awards in 2008. Harvard University twice paid tribute to him, once with the Quincy Jones Professorship of Afro-American Music in 2000, and later in 2007 with the "Q Prize," which honored work on behalf of children around the world. That same year, he began the Quincy Jones Video Podcast, which provided a forum for him to share his experience in the music industry with the public. He also watched his daughter with Peggy Lipton, Rashida Jones, become a television star with successful runs on "The Office" (NBC, 2005- ) and "Parks and Recreation" (NBC, 2009- ). When his friend and former creative partner Michael Jackson died shockingly and prematurely in 2009, Jones was one of many grief-stricken colleagues who spoke lovingly of the troubled singer. Although he refused to attend the Los Angeles memorial, as he insisted was done with funerals, he was spotted wiping away tears when tracks from Thriller were played at the event Jones was attending in Europe.
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