Born Quincy Delight Jones on March 14, 1933, in Chicago, Illinois. Married three times; with six children. Addresses: Record company--Qwest Records, 7250 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036.

With nearly 50 years in the music business, Quincy Jones has proven to be one of the most multi-talented and prolific artists to ever set foot on a stage or in a recording studio. Known in jazz circles since the 1940s and every other circle since the 1980s, Jones has seemed to have a desire to dip his feet in every aspect of popular culture, and to great effect. A list of his top five selling singles from Billboard magazine says it all; "Billie Jean," "Rock With You," "Beat It," "Baby Come to Me," and "We Are the World." Sometimes arrogant, always outspoken, and always with his finger on the "sell a million records" button, Quincy Jones can seem to do no wrong.

Quincy Delight Jones was born on the South Side of Chicago and lived there until the age of ten when his carpenter father and step-mother moved to Bremerton, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. One of nine other siblings, his first recollections of music were of a 12- year-old neighbor in Chicago whose stride piano playing filtered through the walls of his family's Chicago apartment. Jones wouldn't touch an instrument though until two years later when living in Washington. Having tried out every instrument in his elementary school orchestra, he settled on trumpet and made amazing progress in a very short time; such prodigious progress in fact that by 14 he had written music for Count Basie and Lionel Hampton and was playing with Billie Holiday. Music had become a full time obsession for Jones. Talking with Ebony magazine's Aldore Collier he enthused, "something just grabbed me and it was like a vice ... like an addiction. And I could never get enough music of all kinds."

Around the same time of his budding music obsession, he met a local musician three years his senior. This blind singer/pianist's name was Ray Charles and the two formed a group doing club gigs and weddings. Originally self taught, Jones learned to read and write music in Braille from Charles who lost his sight at the age of five. Jones and Charles's combo played everywhere. From white tennis clubs to black clubs to the after-hours clubs of Seattle, their band began to receive a lot of recognition from more established jazz artists of the day. Asked to join Lionel Hampton's band at the age of 15, Jones's heart was broken when Hampton's wife refused to let someone so young, who should really be in school, join his band.

Jones reluctantly went back to school and at 18 won a scholarship to the Barclay College of Music in Boston which he dropped out of shortly after when Hampton asked him once again to join his band. Knowing that to be a musician he would have to get real life experience, in 1951, he joined Hampton and toured the world for three years, taking in sights and sounds that few other 19 year- olds ever get a chance to experience. Playing with brass greats Art Farmer and Clifford Brown and being tutored by Clark Terry, trumpeter for Count Basie and Duke Ellington in the 1940s and 1950s, led to Jones leaving the band in 1954 and moving to New York to be a freelance arranger. Working for the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Ray Anthony, Basie, Cannonball Elderly, and Gene Crape to name just a few, Jones's reputation was being further cemented in the jazz world.

In 1956, Jones was selected by the U.S. State Department to assemble a big band under the leadership of Dizzy Gillespie to tour the Middle East and South America. Jones talked of the trip to Williamsburg, Virginia's Hall of Arts Foundation, "When they send a black band around the world as ambassadors, you know you're going to do a lot of kamikaze work, and we did.... We went to Tehran, and Dacha, Karachi, Instanbul and Damascus ... it was very exciting. Some of these people had never even seen western instruments before." After doing the State Department tour, Jones returned to the states and worked briefly as a bandleader for ABC-Paramount records. Conducting for Zoot Sims, Charles Mingus, Benny Carter, and Herbie Mann among others, many of his recordings were collected on This is How I Feel About Jazz which was reissued by Impulse! in 1974 and Go West, Man from 1978 also on Impulse!.

Moving house about as much as the number of artists he'd arranged and conducted for, Jones took off for Paris in 1957 to study composition and string arrangement with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen. He also worked as music director for Barclay Disques, which through its distribution of American Mercury led to his later association with the successful Chicago based independent label. Being musical director of Harold Arlen's musical Free and Easy led to Jones leading his own band. The 18-piece band toured Europe and the United States to rave reviews, but with the band members' families being along for the ride, the entourage collapsed under its own weight and left Jones without a band and heavily in debt. Securing a loan from Mercury Records head Irving Green, Jones in 1960 relocated once again to New York to work as musical director/A&R man for Mercury. Rising to label vice-president in 1964, Jones became a pioneer African-American executive, being the first to hold such a position in a white owned company. While happily still in the music business, Jones found that the corporate life was not for him. Talking to Billboard he remembered, "I was behind a desk every day ... Awful! I had to be in there at 9 o'clock, and you had to wear these Italian suits. You had to fill out expense reports and all that kind of stuff. That really made my skin crawl." Quite possibly Jones's biggest coup at Mercury wasn't his executive position, but his unlikely discovery of Lesley Gore. Hearing her sing at a Manhattan hotel, Jones signed the teenager from New Jersey and went on the produce 13 hit pop singles for her including her biggest hit "It's My Party" which was number one on Billboard's top 100 in 1963 and even enjoyed two weeks at the top of the R&B charts. During his stay at Mercury, Jones also produced jazz vocalists Sarah Vaughan and Billy Eckstine and white soul singer Timi Yuro. All the while Jones continued as a recording artist in his own right, which he had done since the early 1950's for the Prestige and RCA labels.

Seemingly Jones had conquered many worlds, but one longstanding goal of his yet unaccomplished was his desire to score movies. Unable to find work scoring for the major studios, even with the blessing of Henry Mancini, the man behind the mega hit "Moon River" from Breakfast at Tiffany's among countless other film scores, Jones turned to the world of independent film. Writing the score for young director Sidney Lumet's The Pawnbroker, the story of a concentration-camp survivor, was a great success for Jones, leading to his quitting Mercury to move to Hollywood to do film scores full time. To date Jones had scored over 33 major motion pictures including In the Heat of the Night, In Cold Blood, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, Cactus Flower, The Getaway, and A Slender Thread. He also worked in television, composing the themes for The Bill Cosby Show, Sanford and Son and the pioneering synthesizer based TV theme to Raymond Burr's Ironside

However, Jones's tireless schedule was not without its problems and he quickly learned that he was not superhuman. While his musical career had produced virtually nothing but winners, his personal life was experiencing considerable difficulties. First married at age 20, that union ended stormily after 14 years and two children, a second marriage to Swedish model Eula Andersson ended badly, and his third marriage to ex-Mod Squad star Peggy Lipton broke apart in 1986. Of his stormy love lives he was honest, telling Life magazine, "I'd been a card-carrying dog.... I did a lot of mean selfish things. God makes it so that you can be young and a dog. But old dogs are really pitiful." Jones's health had suffered too. Always career minded, rarely slowing down and seldom sleeping, Jones had the scare of his life when in 1974 he suffered a near fatal cerebral aneurysm. Two operations and six months of recuperation had changed Jones drastically. He told Ebony in 1990, "The operation taught me how to be here, right here, right now, and live in the present time." Jones also experienced a nervous breakdown after the dissolution of his third marriage in 1986 where he sought solitary refuge on Marlon Brando's private island for a month.

Following his sabbatical in 1974, Jones moved away from television and film music to concentrate more on his own music and most notably producing other artists's material. Although he had produced Leslie Gore in the 1960s and done an album for Aretha Franklin in 1972, Jones was not known as well for his skill in the studio as he was for his arranging and scoring. This would change drastically when in 1978 Jones would be employed to score the film The Wiz. Not only did the score earn Jones a Grammy, it would also be the first time he would work with Michael Jackson, a collaboration that would go far beyond anyone's expectations and establish both parties as household names. With Jones at the controls, Michael Jackson's Off The Wall was released in September, 1979 to worldwide acclaim and over six million in sales. It's follow up, 1982's Thriller, at first never thought to be able to duplicate the success of its predecessor, went worlds further and became the best-selling album in history. With sales of over 45 million worldwide, Thriller was inescapable between the years of 1983 and 1984. Jones himself even commented on the overkill in Life stating, "If I never see another Thriller record, it'll be too soon." Jones couldn't have been too annoyed with the record though, as it landed him three more Grammys to add to his other ten. His production style, described in Life as featuring, "warm rhythms, lush synthesizer textures, (and) extravagant yet uncluttered string-and-horn orchestrations..." also worked wonders for The Brothers Johnson, Rufus and Chaka Khan, George Benson, Patti Austin, and Lena Horne. He also produced Frank Sinatra's L.A. Is My Lady album in 1984, working again with the crooner to make what many consider to be Sinatra's finest moments on the 1996 Sinatra and Basie album.

While Jones kept very active producing a multitude of artists, he also found time to start his own record label, Qwest, in 1980. With a roster including many of the artists that he himself produced, the label also boasted a diverse array of talent that moved from R&B crooner James Ingram to British pop stars New Order. Another Qwest release was the soundtrack to the film The Color Purple, an adaptation of the Alice Walker novel, which Jones produced with Steven Spielberg directing. Increasingly Jones's interests turned towards his various business ventures. Possibly the biggest venture Jones had undertaken was his merger with media mogul David Salzmen to form QDE, whose projects have included Vibe magazine which was started in 1993 as a journal of "urban life" and President Bill Clinton's televised inaugural party in 1992 . He also reentered television in the early 1990s, producing such shows as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, In The House, Mad TV, and Vibe TV. As well as producing television shows, Jones, with Hall of Fame football player Willie Davis, television producer and ex-Soul Train host Don Cornelius, and talk show host Geraldo Rivera, formed Qwest Broadcasting which owned television stations in Atlanta and New Orleans, making it one of the largest minority owned broadcasting companies in the United States.

More than just a business man, Jones has also been an active supporter of social issues including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Operation Breadbasket and Rev. Jesse Jackson's People United to Save Humanity. He has also done much to further appreciation of African-American culture through his co-founding of the annual Black Arts Festival in Chicago and through extensive donations to establish a national library of African-American art and music. Certainly his most well-known humanitarian effort has been his instrumental part in the USA for Africa project in 1984, the proceeds of which were to go to help feed the hungry in Africa. "We Are The World," the single released from the sessions, went on to be one of the biggest selling singles ever and brought together on record for the first time artists ranging from Michael Jackson to Bob Dylan to Kenny Rogers.

Holding several honorary doctorate degrees, one Emmy award, seven Academy Award nominations, and 26 Grammy awards among many others, Quincy Jones has succeeded in virtually everything he's tried. By his sixties he showed no signs of slowing down, looking instead towards the future with his company QDE. By the late 1990s he had started exploring the realm of multimedia, with his first entry in the field being the Q's Juke Joint CD-ROM which like his album of the same name, explored the history of African-American music. Talking of his situation to Janet Stilson in Channels, Jones said, "We're positioned to do every dream I've ever had."

by Nathan L. Shafer

Quincy Jones's Career

Joined Lionel Hampton's band in 1951; selected by U.S. State Department to tour South America and Middle East with Dizzy Gillespie in 1956; named vice-president of Mercury Records in 1964; composed first film score for The Pawnbroker in 1965; suffered near fatal cerebral aneurysm in 1974; started Qwest records in 1980; produced top-selling Thriller LP for Michael Jackson in 1982; started multimedia corporation QDE in 1993.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

January 13, 2004: Jones's album, Love, Q, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_5/index.jsp, January 21, 2004.

March 6, 2005: Jones served as co-executive producer for the film Their Eyes Were Watching God, along with Oprah Winfrey. The film, starring Halle Berry, premiered on ABC on March 6. Source: New York Times, www.nytimes.com, March 4, 2005.

March 2005: Jones developed a high-end sound system, called Q-Line, in conjunction with SLS International, to be sold at Wal-Mart discount outlets. Source: CNN Money, http://money.cnn.com/2005/03/31/technology/personaltech/walmart_gadgets/index.htm, April 1, 2005.

Further Reading

Sources

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