Quincy Delight Jones, Jr. (born March 14, 1933) is an American record producer, conductor, arranger, composer, musician, television producer, film producer, instrumentalist, magazine founder, entertainment company executive, and humanitarian. His career spans six decades in the entertainment industry and a record 79 Grammy Award nominations, 27 Grammys, including a Grammy Legend Award in 1991. He is a descendant of the Tikar people in Cameroon. Jones and fellow artist Alison Krauss have won the second most Grammys in history.
In 1968, Jones and his songwriting partner Bob Russell became the first African Americans to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, their "The Eyes of Love" for the Universal Pictures film Banning. That same year, Jones was the first African American to be nominated twice within the same year for an Academy Award for Best Original Score, as he was also nominated for his work on the film In Cold Blood (1967). In 1971, Jones was the first African American to be named as the musical director and conductor of the Academy Awards ceremony. In 1995 he was the first African American to receive the Academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. He is tied with sound designer Willie D. Burton as the African American who has been nominated for the most Oscars; each has received seven nominations.
Jones was the producer, with Michael Jackson, of Jackson's albums Off the Wall (1979), Thriller (1982), and Bad (1987), as well as being the producer and conductor of the 1985 charity song "We Are the World".
In 2013 Jones was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as the winner, alongside Lou Adler, of the Ahmet Ertegun Award. Among his awards, Jones was named by Time Magazine as one of the most influential jazz musicians of the 20th century.
Quincy Jones was born on the South Side of Chicago in 1933 to Quincy Delight Jones, Sr. and Sarah Frances Jones (née Wells). His father was a semi-professional baseball player and carpenter from Kentucky; his paternal grandmother was an ex-slave in Louisville. They had gone to Chicago as part of the Great Migration out of the South. Sarah was a bank officer and apartment complex manager. Quincy had a younger brother Lloyd, later an engineer for the Seattle station, KOMO-TV; he died in 1998. Quincy was introduced to music by his mother, who always sang religious songs, and by his next door neighbor Lucy Jackson. When he was five or six, Jackson played stride piano next door, and he would always listen through the walls. Lucy Jackson recalled that after he heard her that one day, she could not get him off her piano if she tried.
When the boys were young, their mother suffered from a schizophrenic breakdown and was committed to a mental institution. His father obtained a divorce and remarried.
Jones' stepmother, Elvera, had three children of her own: Waymond, who became a friend of the young Quincy, Theresa and Katherine. Elvera and Quincy Senior had three more children together through 1950, after they had moved to the Northwest: Jeanette, Margie and Richard, now a judge in Seattle, making a total of eight in the family.
In 1943, when Jones was ten, his family moved to Bremerton, Washington, where his father got a wartime job at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. After the war, the Jones family moved to Seattle, the major regional city, where Jones attended Garfield High School near his home. He had discovered music when he was 12 and became more deeply involved in high school, developing his skills as a trumpeter and arranger. Classmates included Charles Taylor, who played saxophone and whose mother, Evelyn Bundy, had been one of Seattle's first society jazz-band leaders. The youths began playing with a band. At the age of 14, they were playing with a National Reserve band. Jones has said he got much more experience with music growing up in a smaller city; otherwise, he would have faced too much competition.
At the age of 14, Jones introduced himself to a 16-year-old musician from Florida Ray Charles after watching him play at the Black Elks Club. Jones cites Ray Charles as an early inspiration for his own music career. He noted that Charles overcame a disability to achieve his musical goals. He has credited his father's sturdy work ethic with giving him the means to proceed, and his loving strength with holding the family together. Jones has said his father had a saying: "Once a task is just begun, never leave until it's done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all."
In 1951, Jones won a scholarship to Seattle University, where a young Clint Eastwood--also a music major there--watched him play in the college band. After only one semester, Jones transferred to what is now the Berklee College of Music in Boston on another scholarship. While studying at Berklee he played at Izzy Ort's Bar & Grille with Bunny Campbell and Preston Sandiford, whom he later cited as important musical influences. He left his studies after he received an offer to tour as a trumpeter with the bandleader Lionel Hampton and embarked on his professional career. While Jones was on the road with Hampton, he displayed a gift for arranging songs. Jones relocated to New York City, where he received a number of freelance commissions arranging songs for artists including Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa, and Ray Charles, by now a close friend.
At the age of 19, Jones traveled with Lionel Hampton to Europe and said it turned him upside down, altering his view of racism in the US.
"It gave you some sense of perspective of past, present and future. It took the myopic conflict between just black and white in the United States and put it on another level because you saw the turmoil between the Armenians and the Turks, and the Cypriots and the Greeks, and the Swedes and the Danes, and the Koreans and the Japanese. Everybody had these hassles, and you saw it was a basic part of human nature, these conflicts. It opened my soul, it opened my mind."
In 1956, Jones toured again as a trumpeter and musical director of the Dizzy Gillespie Band on a tour of the Middle East and South America sponsored by the United States Information Agency. Upon his return, Jones signed with ABC-Paramount Records and started his recording career as the leader of his own band. In 1957, Quincy settled in Paris, where he studied composition and theory with Nadia Boulanger and composer Olivier Messiaen. He also performed at the Paris Olympia. Jones became music director at Barclay Disques, a leading French record company and the licensee for Mercury Records in France.
During the 1950s, Jones successfully toured throughout Europe with a number of jazz orchestras. As musical director of Harold Arlen's jazz musical Free and Easy, Quincy Jones took to the road again. A European tour closed in Paris in February 1960. With musicians from the Arlen show, Jones formed his own big band, called The Jones Boys, with eighteen artists. The band included double bass player Eddie Jones and fellow trumpeter Reunald Jones, and organized a tour of North America and Europe. Though the European and American concerts met enthusiastic audiences and sparkling reviews, concert earnings could not support a band of this size. Poor budget planning resulted in an economic disaster; the band dissolved and the fallout left Jones in a financial crisis. Quoted in Musician magazine, Jones said about the ordeal,
"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."
Irving Green, head of Mercury Records, helped Jones with a personal loan and a new job as the musical director of the company's New York division. There he worked with Doug Moody, who founded Mystic Records.
1960s breakthrough and rise to prominence:
In 1964, Jones was promoted to vice-president of Mercury Records, becoming the first African American to hold this executive position. In that same year, he turned his attention to film scores, another musical arena long closed to African Americans. At the invitation of director Sidney Lumet, he composed the music for The Pawnbroker (1964). It was the first of his 33 major motion picture scores.
Following the success of The Pawnbroker, Jones left Mercury Records and moved to Los Angeles. After composing a film score for The Slender Thread (1965), starring Sidney Poitier, he was in constant demand as a composer. His film credits in the next five years included Walk, Don't Run (1966), In Cold Blood (1967), In the Heat of the Night, A Dandy in Aspic (both 1968), Mackenna's Gold, The Italian Job, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, The Lost Man, Cactus Flower (all 1969), and The Getaway (1972). In addition, he composed "The Streetbeater," which became familiar as the theme music for the television sitcom Sanford and Son, starring close friend Redd Foxx; he also composed the themes for other TV shows, including The Bill Cosby Show, Ironside, and the Goodson & Todman game show Now You See It.
In the 1960s, Jones worked as an arranger for some of the most important artists of the era, including Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nana Mouskouri, Shirley Horn, Peggy Lee, and Dinah Washington. Jones's solo recordings also gained acclaim, including Walking in Space, Gula Matari, Smackwater Jack, You've Got It Bad, Girl, Body Heat, Mellow Madness, and I Heard That!!.
He is known for his 1962 tune "Soul Bossa Nova", which originated on the Big Band Bossa Nova album. "Soul Bossa Nova" was a theme used for the 1998 World Cup, the Canadian game show Definition, the Woody Allen film Take the Money and Run, and the Austin Powers film series. It was sampled by Canadian hip hop group Dream Warriors for their song, "My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style".
Jones produced all four million-selling singles for Lesley Gore during the early and mid-sixties, including "It's My Party" (UK No. 8; US No. 1), "Judy's Turn to Cry" (US No. 5), "She's a Fool" (also a US No. 5) in 1963, and "You Don't Own Me" (US No. 2 for four weeks in 1964). He continued to produce for Gore until 1966, including the Greenwich/ Barry hit "Look of Love" (US No. 27) in 1965.
In 1975, Jones founded Qwest Productions, for which he arranged and produced hugely successful albums by Frank Sinatra and other major pop figures. In 1978, he produced the soundtrack for The Wiz, the musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. In 1982, Jones' produced Michael Jackson's all-time best-selling album Thriller.
Jones's 1981 album, The Dude, yielded multiple hit singles, including "Ai No Corrida" (a remake of a song by Chaz Jankel), "Just Once," and "One Hundred Ways", the latter two featuring James Ingram on lead vocals and marking Ingram's first hits.
In 1985, Jones wrote the score for the Steven Spielberg film adaptation of the Pulitzer-prize winning epistolary novel, The Color Purple, by Alice Walker. He and Jerry Goldsmith (from Twilight Zone: The Movie) are the only composers besides John Williams to have scored a Spielberg theatrical film. After the 1985 American Music Awards ceremony, Jones used his influence to draw most of the major American recording artists of the day into a studio to record the song "We Are the World" to raise money for the victims of Ethiopia's famine. When people marveled at his ability to make the collaboration work, Jones explained that he'd taped a simple sign on the entrance: "Check Your Ego At The Door".
In 1988, Quincy Jones Productions joined forces with Warner Communications to create Quincy Jones Entertainment. He signed a ten-picture deal with Warner Brothers and signed a two-series deal with NBC Productions. The television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was completed in 1990, but producers of In the House (from UPN) later rejected its early concept stages. Jones produced the highly successful Fresh Prince of Bel Air (discovering Will Smith); UPN's In the House, and FOX's Madtv--which did 14 seasons on Fox. In the early 1990s, Jones started a huge, ongoing project called "The Evolution of Black Music." Not only did the Quincy Jones Entertainment Company produce The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but it also started a weekly talk show with his friend, Reverend Jesse Jackson, as the host.
Starting in the late 1970s, Jones tried to convince Miles Davis to revive the music he had recorded on several classic albums of the 1960s, which had been arranged by Gil Evans. Davis had always refused, citing a desire not to revisit the past. In 1991, Davis, then suffering from pneumonia, relented and agreed to perform the music at a concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The resulting album from the recording, Miles & Quincy Live at Montreux, was Davis' last released album (he died several months afterward). It is considered an artistic triumph.
In 1993, Jones collaborated with David Salzman to produce the concert extravaganza, An American Reunion, a celebration of Bill Clinton's inauguration as president of the United States. The same year, Jones joined forces with Salzman and renamed his company as Quincy Jones/David Salzman Entertainment (QDE). QDE is a diverse company that produces media technology, motion pictures, television programs (In the House, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and MADtv), and magazines (VIBE and Spin).
In 2001, Jones published his autobiography, Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones. On July 31, 2007, he partnered with Wizzard Media to launch the Quincy Jones Video Podcast. In each episode, Jones shares his knowledge and experience in the music industry. The first episode features him in the studio, producing "I Knew I Loved you" for Celine Dion. This is featured on the Ennio Morricone tribute album, We All Love Ennio Morricone. Jones is also noted for helping produce Anita Hall's CD, Send Love, which was released in 2009.
Work with Michael Jackson:
While working on the film The Wiz, Michael Jackson asked Jones to recommend some producers for his upcoming solo record. Jones offered some names, but eventually offered to produce the record. Jackson accepted and the resulting record, Off The Wall, ultimately sold about 20 million copies. This made Jones the most powerful record producer in the industry at that time. Jones' and Jackson's next collaboration, Thriller, has sold a reputed 110 million copies and has become the highest-selling album of all time. Jones also worked on Jackson's album Bad, which has sold 45 million copies. Bad was the last time the pair worked together in the studio. Audio interviews with Jones are featured on the 2001 special editions of Off The Wall, Thriller, and Bad.
In a 2002 interview, when asked if he would work with Jones again, Jackson suggested he might. But, in 2007, when Jones was asked by NME, he said "Man, please! We already did that. I have talked to him about working with him again but I've got too much to do. I've got 900 products, I'm 74 years old."
Following Jackson's death on June 25, 2009, Jones said:
I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news. For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age, I just don't have the words. Divinity brought our souls together on The Wiz and allowed us to do what we were able to throughout the '80s. To this day, the music we created together on Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad is played in every corner of the world and the reason for that is because he had it all...talent, grace, professionalism and dedication. He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I've lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him.
In October 2013, it was reported by the BBC and Hollywood Reporter that Jones is suing the estate of Michael Jackson for 10 million dollars. Jones says that MJJ Productions, a song company managed by the singer's estate and Sony Music Entertainment, improperly re-edited songs to deprive him of royalties and production fees; further, they broke an agreement giving him the right to remix master recordings for albums released after Jackson's death in 2009. The songs Quincy produced for Jackson were used in the film, This Is It. Jones is filing lawsuits against the works of Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil productions, and the 25th anniversary edition of the Bad album. Quincy believes he should have received a producer credit in the film. Quincy also claimed he had a bigger part in Jackson's music than everyone thought.
Work with Frank Sinatra:
Jones first worked with Frank Sinatra in 1958 when invited by Princess Grace to arrange a benefit concert at the Monaco Sporting Club. Six years later, Sinatra hired him to arrange and conduct Sinatra's second album with Count Basie, It Might as Well Be Swing (1964). Jones conducted and arranged the singer's live album with the Basie Band, Sinatra at the Sands (1966). Jones was also the arranger/conductor when Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, and Johnny Carson performed with the Basie orchestra in June 1965 in St. Louis, Missouri, in a benefit for Dismas House. The fund-raiser was broadcast to movie theaters around the country and eventually released on DVD. Later that year, Jones was the arranger/conductor when Sinatra and Basie appeared on The Hollywood Palace TV show on October 16, 1965. Nineteen years later, Sinatra and Jones teamed up for 1984's L.A. Is My Lady. Quincy was quoted saying,
"Frank Sinatra took me to a whole new planet. I worked with him until he passed away in '98. He left me his ring. I never take it off. Now, when I go to Sicily, I don't need a passport. I just flash my ring."
A great admirer of Brazilian culture, Jones is planning a film on Brazil's "Carnival," describing it as "one of the most spectacular spiritual events on the planet." The Brazilians Simone, whom he cites as "one of the world's greatest singers",Ivan Lins,Milton Nascimento and Gilson Peranzzetta, "one of the five biggest arrangement producers of the world", percussionist Paulinho Da Costa "one of the best in the business", have become close friends and partners in his recent works.
Jones had a brief appearance in the 1990 video for The Time song "Jerk Out". Jones was a guest actor on an episode of The Boondocks. He appeared with Ray Charles in the music video of their song "One Mint Julep" and also with Ray Charles and Chaka Khan in the music video of their song "I'll Be Good to You".
Quincy Jones hosted an episode of the long-running NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live on February 10, 1990 (during SNL's 15th season). The episode was notable for having 10 musical guests (the most any SNL episode has ever had in its near-40 years on the air): Tevin Campbell, Andrae Crouch, Sandra Crouch, rappers Kool Moe Dee and Big Daddy Kane, Melle Mel, Quincy D III, Siedah Garrett, Al Jarreau, and Take 6, and for a performance of Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca" by The SNL Band (conducted by Quincy Jones). Jones impersonated Marion Barry, former mayor of Washington, DC, in the then-recurring sketch, The Bob Waltman Special. Quincy Jones later produced his own sketch comedy show, FOX's MADtv. This competed with SNL from 1995 to 2009.
Jones appeared in the Walt Disney Pictures film, Fantasia 2000, introducing the set piece of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Two years later he made a cameo appearance as himself in the film Austin Powers in Goldmember.
On February 10, 2008, Jones joined Usher in presenting the Grammy Award for Album of the Year to Herbie Hancock.
On January 6, 2009, Quincy Jones appeared on NBC's Last Call with Carson Daly to discuss various aspects of his prolific career. Daly informally floated the idea that Jones should become the first minister of culture for the United States, pending the inauguration of Barack Obama as President. Daly noted that only the US and Germany, among leading world countries, did not have a cabinet-level position for this role. Commentators on NPR and in the Chronicle of Higher Education have also discussed the topic of a minister of culture.
In July 2014, Jones was starring in a documentary film, The Distortion of Sound.
Awards and recognition:
Further information: List of awards and nominations received by Quincy Jones
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