Quincy Jones is extremely important to me as he is the creator of some of the most important music in my life. Quincy Jones was the producer of my top two favorite albums of all time, Michael Jackson’s’ “Off the Wall” and “Thriller” and he is responsible for some of the music in my favorite musical “The Wiz”. I can remember, as a child, sitting in the car with my dad singing along to “The Boy is Mine”, “Girlfriend”, “Lady in my Life”, and “PYT” and the rhythm was totally infectious. And when it comes to “The Wiz” nothing compares. I vividly remember watching the film for the first time with my eyes glued to the television, from seeing Jackson as the scarecrow to the emerald city sequence that bursts with color. I knew simply that the man responsible for these wonderful compositions was a visionary and not only that, but he was easily responsible for the soundtrack to my childhood.
Because I was not born during the height of his career nor during the Michael Jackson era, my knowledge of Quincy Jones is strictly limited to what my parents have shared with me. That knowledge consists of “Off the Wall”, “Thriller”, “The Wiz”, “Bad” and even the song “The Secret Garden”. All of this music is very eighties, so that was my only impression of Jones. I thought he was just an eighties producer. However this past weekend I was able to catch the “Quincy” documentary on Netflix. Not only did I learn through the documentary the impact of Quincy Jones but I quickly realized he was not just an eighties producer.
The documentary follows the career of Quincy Jones from beginning to where he currently is today. I was surprised to find out that Quincy Jones had his start with some of the greatest Jazz musicians of all time. Jones started playing many instruments, but was drawn to the Trumpet. He became inspired by the Jazz artists of the day and was inspired by the fact that there was “dignified” and admirable black men. Jones began just hanging around backstage with Count Basie, where he eventually learned to play like them and landed a spot in his band merely at 14 years old. He then became great friends with the great Ray Charles when Charles was just 16. By 18 Jones was in the Lionel Hampton band where he toured for a long 70 consecutive nights. At the time he was playing Beop, a style of Jazz, and he eventually moved to New York to get closer to the pulse of the genre. It was New York where he really had a kick start to his career due to arranging Dinah Washington’s album leading to great success. Shortly following the release of Washington’s album Jones began arranging for artists like Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, and Ray Charles.
Following hardships as an arranger, Quincy Jones took a job at Mercury Records where he began to tackle pop music. It was here where he discovered and “cut” the famous record “It’s My Party” for artist Lesley Gore which still continues to be used in commercials, movies, and songs to this very day. During the 60’s Jones was also known for arranging and conducting “It Might as Well Be Swing” for Frank Sinatra. Leading into the 70’s Jones began scoring films as he felt it was an open space for black men and he was driven by the notion that “if the white guys can do it so can I. We then got into my favorite part of the documentary where Quincy discussed meeting Michael Jackson and what it was like working with his on both “Off the Wall” and “Thriller” specifically. He recalls meeting Jones during the production of “The Wiz” where Michael asked him to come work on his new album. The goal was to get Michael to “mature” and have “artistic growth”. That album became the biggest selling record by a black artists up to that point and was only beat by its successor “Thriller”. Jones is also well known during this era for being responsible for the recording of “We are the World” with some of the top stars of the day. Jones still continued to make his own Jazz albums and even worked to later have jazz and hip hop meet on an album of his own. Other things I learned were that Quincy Jones is in some respects responsible for the acting career of Will Smith and Oprah as he is the creator of “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and he discovered Oprah working on and scoring “The Color Purple”. Jones at the time of the filming of the documentary was responsible for the opening ceremony that was to debut the Smithsonian Museum of African AMerican History which is a great honor. This film showed me a lot more about Quincy Jones and it made him much more than just a credit on Michael Jackson’s album for me. Without Jones we wouldn’t have some of the greatest songs, movie soundtracks, and stars like Michael Jackson and Will Smith. Quincy Jones is a highly awarded man as he is a 28 time Grammy winner, a Tony for the Color Purple, an Emmy for Roots, and a non-competitive Oscar for winning the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1994. These accomplishments technically make Jones an EGOT holder which only a small number of creatives can say they are. Quincy Jones is a huge part of African American Music and without him again we’d be missing the best parts of a few great artists, we wouldn’t see Will Smith as an actor, Michael Jackson as the star he truly was or even Oprah. Jones has left a significant mark on music as a whole and by the looks of the film it doesn’t seem he’s stopping anytime soon.