I Am Music: The Life of Quincy Jones

“Imagine what a harmonious world, it could be if every single person, both young and old shared a little of what he is good at doing.” – Quincy Jones

I am sure I am like many of you in regards to Quincy Jones.  You are familiar with his name, the fact that he produced some great artists, he has two daughters that are incredibly attractive, and he appears to embody cool (even at the age of 78).  But I started to really look into this man that seems to be in a perpetual state of motion in music when I was fortunate enough to make his acquaintance when he was selected to give the commencement speech in 2010 at Indiana University.  I knew of his production on the entire album of Michael Jackson’s Thriller that launched the artist as well as the creation of the music category pop due to attaining the record in music sells, that still stands today (the Grammy’s created the category in order to prevent the R&B category from dominating the attention and awards at the show).  I knew of his production and evident pull in gathering a number of artists that still seem to not be able to be in the same city much less studio with “We Are The World.”  Although I would never “bump” the song on my iPod or in my ride because of the “cheesy” 80’s sound, I am still a proud owner of the album and contributor to the more than 10-20 million singles sold worldwide (not the U.S., everywhere!). I also knew of the song, “The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)” on the album Back on the Block with its series of male vocalist singing seductively (as my voice changed, I personally perfected the late Barry White’s verse).  I even knew of the movie/documentary of his life in the ‘90s that wasn’t very popular possibly because of its seemingly endless display of conceit.  Thus, I knew of Quincy Jones, but I did not know Quincy Jones.

“I was inspired by a lot of people when I was young.  Every band that came through town, to the theater, or the dance hall.  I was at every dance, every night club, listened to every band that came through…” – Quincy Jones

As I sit amongst many of my students who were graduating, I listened to this man championing the need for a Minister or Secretary of Culture (which would include music) in the United States.  This man was, just as Larenz Tate played him in the movie on the life of Ray Charles , virtually everywhere.  One scene displayed him coming out of a club in Seattle trying to get a gig while much later being a key part of Ray Charles resurgence.  He produced “Fly Me To The Moon” as performed by Frank Sinatra and Count Basie’s Orchestra which was the first song from the planet Earth ever played on the Moon’s surface on the 1969 lunar landing that Kennedy remarked was the “…one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”  He scored the entire theatrical release of Steven Spielberg’s the Color Purple that launched Oprah into the national spotlight as an actress and potential celebrity (besides inspiring her to launch her own studio ). His work with “We Are The World” dealt with the Ethiopian famine in 1985 in such a way (without social networking) that it made commonplace for us to know of, attend, and buy music for relief purposes (thoughts and actions currently go out to the people in Japan and the Pacific).  When you look at his list of music nominations, wins, or other awards and distinctions there is practically not a year that he has not received such an honor from 1961 to the present.  I repeat…from 1961 to the present.

“Just blow in it and sound bad for about a year and then make it sound a little bit better, and you get a little band together, and then you get a few jobs. You take four guys that sound half bad, but if they’re 25 percent each, they can give 100 percent, you know?“ – Quincy Jones

But we forgot that this man is first and foremost, a musician and not a musical social butterfly.  His instruments of choice are the trumpet, drums, piano, and synthesizer playing alongside such greats as Miles Davis, Gene Krupa, and Duke Ellington. He still produces and plays as indicated by the recent November 2010 release of Q Soul Bossa Nostra that hosts a variety of artists from Amy Winehouse to Akon to Three 6 Mafia. This activity speaks not to a sense of arrogance but a true passion for music that lends even more credence to what I heard at the graduation, “it is a crime that the U.S. is one of the only countries in the world that does not have a government level post that protects, supports, and develops its culture, in particular, its music…this is my life charge.”

If music is as important to me as I claim, then I would not even want to consider the possibility of not having the heaven that it has given me and clearly if we did not have Quincy Jones, it seems we would be quite deficient in song, rhythm, and harmony.

I believe Quincy Delightt Jones, born March 14, 1933 in Chicago, IL, deserves a little more respect, consideration, and a playlist on my iPod…


– Rasul Mowatt, aka black
DJ & professor

One Comment

  1. Yellow

    This fool BLACK knows Quincy Jones too!?
    Probably was in the studio playing his Tuba on the Thriller album!