Black History Month 2012: Quincy Jones

11 Feb

Today we honor and celebrate a man whose sixty years in music and the arts make him nearly unmatched in accomplishments and awards. Quincy Delightt Jones, Jr. was born in Chicago in 1933 and raised in Seattle. He received a scholarship to the school that eventually became the Berklee College of Music. He left before graduation to take advantage of the chance to be a trumpeter with Lionel Hampton’s band. While with Hampton, he displayed an uncanny knack for arrangement and quickly relocated to New York where he became an in-demand arranger for luminaries like Sarah Vaughan, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. From 1956 to 1960 he alternated between touring as a trumpeter and arranger and time in New York. After being involved in a disastrous tour of North America and Europe, he decided that he needed to take further control of his own destiny.

We had the best jazz band in the planet, and yet we were literally starving. That’s when I discovered that there was music, and there was the music business. If I were to survive, I would have to learn the difference between the two.

He accepted a loan from Irving Green, head of Mercury Records and began working for the company, soon rising to Vice President, the first African-American to hold such a post at a label not owned by African-Americans. In 1964, Sidney Lumet invited him to score his film The Pawnbroker, and Jones became the first African-American to score a major film. He has since done over 30 scores, receiving a record seven Academy Award nominations. He also has a record 79 Grammy nominations with 27 wins including the Grammy Legend award.

He has gone on to an amazing career (including producing Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the biggest-selling album of all time). His list of awards and accolades is so substantial that it merits its own Wikipedia page. This includes the coveted Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, indicative of his dedication to giving back to the world. While he is well known as the conductor and producer of the We Are the World sessions, he has made many regular contributions to other causes. Jones holds the title of the ONLY music composer of a Steven Spielberg movie, The Color Purple.  All other Spielberg movies used John Williams to compose the music score.  Not a big surprise to the TSM audience, but not only did I love the movie The Color Purple, but I bought the soundtrack immediately after seeing the movie.

Beginning with his work with Dr. King in the early 60s, he has launched many initiatives. Jones is co-founder of the Institute for Black American Music and the Black Arts Festival in Chicago. In 2004, he helped launch the We Are the Future (WAF) project, which gives children in poor and conflict-ridden areas a chance to live their childhoods and develop a sense of hope. He regularly contributes time, energy, and money to other organizations, including the NAACP, AmFar, and GLAAD. Not content just to be a celebrity and businessman, Quincy Jones is a model of civil rights and social justice.

2 Responses to “Black History Month 2012: Quincy Jones”


  1. Billboard #1s for the Week Ending March 23, 1985 | Music and Meaning: The RBHS Jukebox - March 21, 2015

    […] to help. Kragen enlisted two of his clients, Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers. They quickly recruited Quincy Jones, who took a break from working on the Color Purple to co-produce and orchestrate the project. They […]

  2. Album of the Week, September 6: The Dude by Quincy Jones | Music and Meaning: The RBHS Jukebox - September 6, 2015

    […] Quincy Jones is one of the most successful, influential, and creative forces in popular music. Born in Chicago and raised in Seattle, he demonstrated an early aptitude for trumpet, landing a scholarship at the school that became Berklee. Moving to New York and later to Paris, he built a strong reputation as a player, arranger and bandleader, best known for his work with big band, jazz, and swing stars. Moving back to the States as the first African-American executive at a major label, he expanded into pop, producing Leslie Gore’s #1 smash It’s My Party. A list of the artists he has produced and arranged is a who’s who of stars: Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon, and dozens more. By the waning days of the 70s, Jones had moved his own career in a more pop-oriented direction as well. Always a champion of African-American musical culture writ large — rather than beholden to any one genre — the albums bearing his own name began fusing pop, R&B, dance, and jazz, pulling together talented artists who turned out fine sounds under his direction. He also continued producing, notably helming Michael Jackson’s breakthrough solo disc Off the Wall. […]

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