Black History Month – Day 14 Spotlight: Quincy Jones

Quincy Delight Jones, Jr. is synonymous with the term ‘American musician’. Born March 14, 1933, Jones is a conductor, record producer, musical arranger, film composer, television producer, and trumpeter who is enjoying a career that spans six decades in the entertainment industry.

Jones has a record 79 Grammy Award nominations and actually receiving 27 awards, including a Grammy Legend Award in 1991.

He is particularly recognized as the producer of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which has sold between 60-110 million copies worldwide, and as the producer and conductor of the charity song “We Are the World”.

Back Story

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. That same year, he became the first African American to be nominated twice within the same year when he was nominated for Best Original Score for his work on the music of the 1967 film In Cold Blood.

In 1971, Jones would receive the honor of becoming the first African American to be named musical director/conductor of the Academy Awards ceremony. He was the first African American to win the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, in 1995. He is tied with sound designer Willie D. Burton as the most Oscar-nominated African American, each of them having seven nominations.

At the 2008 BET Awards, Quincy Jones was presented with the Humanitarian Award.

Personal

Mr. Jones was born on Chicago’s South Side. When he was ten he moved, with his father and stepmother, to Bremerton, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. He first fell in love with music when he was in elementary school, and tried nearly all the instruments in his school band before settling on the trumpet. While barely in his teens, Quincy befriended then-local singer-pianist Ray Charles. The two youths formed a combo, eventually landing small club and wedding gigs.

At 18, the young trumpeter won a scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, but dropped out abruptly when he received an offer to go on the road with bandleader Lionel Hampton. The stint with Hampton led to work as a freelance arranger.

Jones settled in New York, where, throughout the 1950s, he wrote charts for Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington, Cannonball Adderley and Ray Charles.

Career Highlights

Celebrating more than 50 years performing and being involved in music, Quincy’s creative magic has spanned over six decades, beginning with the music of the post-swing era and continuing through today’s high-technology, international multi-media hybrids.

In the mid-50’s, he was the first popular conductor-arranger to record with a Fender bass. His theme from the hit TV series Ironside was the first synthesizer-based pop theme song. As the first black composer to be embraced by the Hollywood establishment in the 60’s, he helped refresh movie music with badly needed infusions of jazz and soul.

His landmark 1989 album, Back On The Block–named “Album Of The Year” at the 1990 Grammy Awards– brought such legends as Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Miles Davis together with Ice T, Big Daddy Kane and Melle Mel to create the first fusion of the be bop and hip hop musical traditions; while his 1993 recording of the critically acclaimed Miles and Quincy Live At Montreux, featured Quincy conducting Miles Davis’ live performance of the historic Gil Evans arrangements from the Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain sessions, garnered a Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance.

As producer and conductor of the historic “We Are The World” recording (the best-selling single of all time) and Michael Jackson’s multi-platinum solo albums, Off The Wall, Bad and Thriller, Quincy Jones stands as one of the most successful and admired creative artist/executives in the entertainment world.

By no means is Quincy Jones done – follow him on his official website here and check out his latest project Soul Bossa Nostra.

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