Today is the 65th birthday of legendary composer, arranger, producer and
trumpeter Quincy Jones. Nominated for more Grammys than any other artist
in history, his prolific work behind the mixing boards and in corporate
boardrooms has gone a long way toward elevating the status of
African-Americans in the music industry and has influenced artists from all
parts of the R&B world.
Born in Chicago, Jones moved with his family to Seattle when
he was very young. He first started playing the trumpet in grade school,
forming a band with soul legend Ray Charles and playing Seattle clubs at
the age of 14. A year later, he joined Lionel Hampton's big band and soon
won a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in Boston. By the
age of 17, Jones had left school and was regularly hanging out and playing
with such legendary jazz musicians as Charlie Parker and Miles Davis in New
York. World tours with various bands soon followed, with Jones taking Paris as his second home. He returned to
the states in 1961 and became one of the first African-Americans to land
an executive position with a major label when he became a vice president at
Mercury Records. During his seven years at Mercury, Jones spent as much
time in the studio as he did behind a desk, working as a musician on hundreds of recordings and arranging "You Don't Own Me" and "It's My Party" for Leslie
Gore and "Fly Me to the Moon" for Frank Sinatra.
Jones signed to A&M Records in 1969, releasing two Grammy-winning pop-oriented albums while continuing his work writing film scores. After
producing the Brothers Johnson's debut album in 1976, Jones began work
on what would eventually be the Emmy-winning score to the TV mini-series "Roots." Jones also worked on the music for the film "The Wiz," where
he first met Michael Jackson. That meeting led to Jones producing Jackson's biggest-selling albums, 1979's Off The Wall, 1982's Thriller and
1987's Bad. He also worked with a number of other artists in the
'80s, including Rufus with Chaka Khan, James Ingram, Donna Summer and
George Benson. The respect that he earned from a number of artists from many
different genres allowed him to produce the all-star "We Are The World"
recording session in 1985. In 1989, Jones released Back on the Block, arguably the first album to ever mix hip-hop with jazz, pre-dating that trend in hip-hop by at least two years. The '90s have found Jones as busy as ever, continuing to work his magic in different mediums. He launched the magazine and television show Vibe and also worked as a producer on the television show "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."
Other birthdays: Jim
Pons (the Turtles), 55; Walter Parazaider (Chicago), 53; and David Byrne (Talking Heads), 46.