Friday, January 24, 2014

Music Mavens Part Four: Quincy Jones

Above photo: Quincy Jones with Michael Jackson

Our final profile in this 4-part series takes a look at the legendary Quincy Jones. This man has a musical career that dates back to the 1950's. He has won more Grammy awards than any living artist, totaling a whopping 26 wins. Many people think of him as Michael Jackson's producer for "Thriller," the masterpiece that went platinum 100 times over. Or you may remember him from his coordinating and conducting of the USA for Africa benefit song "We are the World". But his musical career started decades prior to those landmark accomplishments.

In the 1950's, at age 17, he dropped out out the prestigious Berklee school of music in Boston to tour with Lionel Hampton's band as a conductor and trumpet player. Word of his musical talent spread and he composed, arranged and recorded with Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Count Basie and other jazz legends. The excellent movie, Ray, starring Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, documented the time when Quincy first met Ray in Seattle.

Jones became an executive at Mercury Records and he won his first Grammy in 1963. In the mid-1960's he became Frank Sinatra's conductor and arranger. He arranged one of Sinatra's biggest hits, "Fly Me to the Moon". He composed music for films and TV shows such as Sanford and Son. He said this about Sinatra:

"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."

In 1978, Quincy Jones met Michael Jackson while working on music for the film The Wiz. The collaboration between the two of them would take Quincy's musical career into the stratosphere. Jones would produce the albums "Thriller" (1982) and "Bad" (1987) for Michael. In 1985 Quincy brought together musical superstars like Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Sting, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Huey Lewis and more to record the song "We are the World". This single sold 20 million copies.

In 1990, Quincy wrote a song for a new sitcom starring Will Smith, "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air". He was also the executive producer of the show. His production company made many shows, including Mad TV for the Fox network.

The legacy of music that will be left behind when Quincy Jones is gone will live on forever. No doubt, he is one of the most celebrated and accomplished artists in the history of music.

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