Quincy Jones has done just about everything a person can do in the music business. A performer, composer, arranger, producer and executive, Jones’ legendary career spans a musical timeline from bebop to rap.
Born in 1933, Jones had a tough childhood that he detailed in sometimes painful detail in his book, Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones. His father was there for him, but unable to cope with a wife who was mentally unstable. Jones later grew up with a stepmother he had difficulties with. As a teenager, Jones and his brother ran with street gangs before they were officially gangs.
But it was Jones’ love of music and his ability to exclusively focus on that subject that was the young man’s ticket to stardom. His first big break was as a performer playing in Lionel Hampton’s band. Jones also knew the young before either achieved stardom and did a stint in Dizzy Gillespie’s band.
Long recognized as an outstanding arranger, Jones soon found himself working with the greats of the days and shattering racial barriers by working with artists like Frank Sinatra. He also studied classical music while in Europe and led several all-star tours there. By 1961, the 28 year old Jones was named a Vice President at Mercury Records, the first time an African-American held an executive role at a major label.
Jones didn’t just become a suit, however, and went on to compose the scores for landmark movies including In Cold Blood and In The Heat of the Night.
Modern music fans may know Jones best for his work on Michael Jackson’s smash solo albums. Thriller, which Jones produced, routinely battles with The Eagles’ Greatest Hits as the top selling album in American history. The legendary Q also was the conductor and producer who told dozens of artists to “check their egos at the door” when the all-star tribute We Are The World was cut the night of the American Music Awards.
Always outspoken and never shy about his many accomplishments, Jones has won virtually every accolade and award music can offer. He has even turned to other facets of the movie industry, co-producing The Color Purple, which was nominated for 11 awards during the 1986 Academy Awards.