Quincy Delight Jones, Jr., popularly known as Quincy Jones in the music industry, is a multifaceted American celebrity who has made his name as a record producer, film and television producer, composer, conductor, arranger, instrumentalist, jazz trumpeter and record company executive. His love for music was quite evident to his family since he was a young boy and it was the musician Ray Charles, who is also his teenage friend, who convinced him to explore music professionally. Jones with his talent with trumpet and magnificent composing abilities earned himself a scholarship to Berklee College of Music, Boston, but he decided to dropout from college and pursued freelancing. After composing music for Barclay Records in Paris, he started composing music for some of the big names in the industry. It was after he formed his own companies, Qwest Productions and Quincy Jones Entertainment that he composed and arranged for many movies, television scores and artists like Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, etc and became the most Grammy-nominated artist in history, with 79 nominations and 27 wins. Jones is also a philanthropist and besides giving the world its humanitarian anthem ‘We Are The World’, he has also founded charities like Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation.
Childhood & Early Life
Quincy Jones was born in Chicago to Quincy Delight Jones, Sr. and Sarah Frances. His father was a semi-professional baseball player and carpenter and mother was a bank officer and apartment complex manager.
When Jones was young, his mother suffered from schizophrenia and was admitted to mental hospital, which is why his father took a divorce from her and remarried. The whole family moved to Washington after that.
He attended the Garfield High School in Seattle and was involved in music all through his high school. He formed a band with his fellow schoolmates and won a scholarship to Berklee College of Music, Boston in 1951.
He left studies in between and set off on a tour with a band as a trumpeter and from there on his professional musical career started. He moved to New York City and started doing freelance.
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Throughout the 1950s, Jones arranged and played trumpet for Lionel Hampton and then became a freelance arranger for jazz sessions. Later, he became the musical director for Dizzy Gillespie’s overseas band tour and moved to Paris and worked for Barclay Records.
In 1959, he got his first big international opportunity when he led a band for the European production of Harold Arlen’s blues opera, ‘Free and Easy’. He returned to New York to work as an executive with Mercury Records.
By mid-1960s, Jones became proficient in his art and started to produce his own pop records and composed for films and television, which helped African-American music gain more and more popularity in Hollywood.
He composed for films like: ‘Walk, Don’t Run (1966)’, ‘In Cold Blood (1967)’, ‘The Lost Man (1969)’, ‘The Italian Job (1969)’, ‘Cactus Flower (1969)’, ‘In the Heat of the Night (1968)’; TV shows like: ‘Ironside’, ‘Now You See It’, etc.
He continued as an arranger for some of the most acclaimed artists like: Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, etc. His solos were also becoming a rage— Walking in Space, Gula Matari, Smackwater Jack,etc.
Jones finally founded his own production company, Qwest Productions in 1975. He got an opportunity to arrange and produce albums for veteran artists like Frank Sinatra and other prominent pop artists.
In 1978, he produced the soundtrack for the musical adaptation of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, called ‘The Wiz’, which starred much acclaimed musical artists like, Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.
Michael Jackson and Jones collaborated again in 1982 and worked on Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. The album sold 110 million copies and became the highest selling album of all time, which made Jones the most powerful record producer in the industry.
In 1985, Jones, now a powerful force in the industry, recorded the much celebrated anthem ‘We Are the World’ to raise money for the victims of famine in Ethiopia. He later formed Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation (2001).
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Quincy Jones Entertainment was formed in 1988 when Quincy Jones Productions shook hands with Warner Communications. This led to the signing of ten-picture deal with Warner Brothers and two-series deal with NBC Productions.
In the 1990s, Jones appeared in a song ‘Jerk Out’, in an episode of ‘The Boondocks’, on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and later he produced his own sketch comedy show on Fox, ‘MADtv’ (which ran from 1995-2009).
He appeared on NBC's ‘Last Call with Carson Daly’ to discuss various aspects of his abundant career in 2009. He also performed at a private reception for USAA employees in Texas in the same year.
The work that Jones did under Qwest Productions and Quincy Jones Entertainment is considered to be the most important part of his career. Under his label, he has worked with major stars like, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Frank, etc.
Awards & Achievements
Jones is the most Grammy-nominated artist in history, with 79 nominations and 27 wins for songs like, ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’, ‘Walking in Space’, ‘Velas’, ‘Beat It’, ‘We Are The World’, ‘Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me’, etc.
He has also been honored with: Songwriters Hall of Fame, United Negro College Fund Honor, Dance Music Hall of Fame, Honorary Doctorate from Morehouse College, Honorary Degree from the University of Washington, Humanitarian Award, etc.
Personal Life & Legacy
Jones has been married three times: Jeri Caldwell (1957-1966) and the couple has a daughter together - Jolie Jones; Ulla Andersson (1967-1974) and they have two children together - Martina and Quincy Jones III; and Peggy Lipton (1974-1990) and has two daughters - Kidada and Rashida Jones.
Jones suffered from a life-threatening brain aneurysm in 1974 and since his friends and family believed that he did not have much time left, they arranged for his memorial service, which he attended himself.
He had brief affairs with Carol Reynolds and actress Nastassja Kinski.
He has worked with The Jazz Foundation of America to save the homes and the lives of America's elderly jazz and blues musicians, including those who survived Hurricane Katrina.
Jones appeared in the Walt Disney Pictures film, ‘Fantasia 2000’.
Musician Ray Charles is his teenage friend, who convinced him to pursue music.