Born: March 14, 1933
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Quincy Delight Jones Jr. (born March 14, 1933), also known as "Q", is an American record producer, musician and film producer. His career spans six decades in the entertainment industry, a record 79 Grammy Award nominations, and 27 Grammys, including a Grammy Legend Award in 1991.
Raised in Chicago, Jones attended the Berklee College of Music. He came to prominence in the 1950s as a jazz arranger and conductor, before moving on to work in pop music and film scores. In 1969, Jones and his songwriting partner Bob Russell became the first African Americans to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, for "The Eyes of Love" from the Universal Pictures film Banning. Jones was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score for his work on the 1969 film In Cold Blood, making him the first African American to be nominated twice in the same year. In 1971, he became the first African American to be the musical director and conductor of the Academy Awards ceremony. In 1995, he was the first African American to receive the Academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. He has tied with sound designer Willie D. Burton as the second most Oscar-nominated African American; each has seven nominations (Denzel Washington has nine nominations).
Jones was the producer, with Michael Jackson, of Jackson's albums Off the Wall (1979), Thriller (1982), and Bad (1987), as well as the producer and conductor of the 1985 charity song "We Are the World", which raised funds for victims of destitution in Ethiopia.
In 2013, Jones was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as the winner, alongside Lou Adler, of the Ahmet Ertegun Award. He was named one of the most influential jazz musicians of the 20th century by Time magazine.Jones was born in 1933, on the South Side of Chicago, to Quincy Delight Jones Sr. and Sarah Frances (née Wells). The elder Jones was a semi-professional baseball player and carpenter from Kentucky. His paternal grandmother was an ex-slave in Louisville. Jones later discovered that his paternal grandfather was of Welsh descent. Jones' family had moved to Chicago as part of the Great Migration out of the South. Sarah was a bank officer and apartment complex manager. Jones had a younger brother, Lloyd, who became an engineer for the Seattle television station KOMO-TV. Lloyd Jones died in 1998. Quincy Jones was introduced to music by his mother, who always sang religious songs, and by his next-door neighbor, Lucy Jackson. When Jones was five or six, Jackson played stride piano next door, and he would listen through the walls. Lucy Jackson recalled that after he heard her one-day, she could not get him off her piano if she tried.
When the boys were young, their mother suffered from a schizophrenic breakdown and was admitted to a mental institution. Jones' father divorced and remarried Elvera Jones, who already had three children of her own: Waymond, who became a friend of the young Quincy; Theresa; and Katherine. Elvera and Quincy Senior had three children together, after moving to the Northwest: Jeanette; Margie; and Richard (who became a judge in Seattle).
In 1943, Jones and his family moved to Bremerton, Washington, where his father got a wartime job at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. After the war, the Joneses moved to Seattle where Jones attended Garfield High School near his home. In high school, Jones developed his skills as a trumpeter and arranger. His classmates included Charles Taylor, who played saxophone and whose mother, Evelyn Bundy, had been one of Seattle's first society jazz-band leaders. Jones and Taylor began playing music together, and at the age of 14, were playing with a National Reserve band. Jones has said he got much more experience with music growing up in a smaller city; otherwise, he would have faced too much competition.
At age 14, Jones introduced himself to a then 16-year-old musician from Florida, Ray Charles, after watching him play at the Black Elks Club. Jones cites Charles as an early inspiration for his own music career, noting that Charles overcame a disability (glaucomatic blindness) to achieve his musical goals. He has credited his father's sturdy work ethic with giving him the means to proceed, and his loving strength with holding the family together. Jones has said his father had a saying: "Once a task is just begun, never leave until it's done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all."
In 1951, Jones earned a scholarship to Seattle University, where a young Clint Eastwood – also a music major there – watched him play in the college band. After only one semester, Jones transferred to what is now the Berklee College of Music, in Boston, on another scholarship. While studying at Berklee, he played at Izzy Ort's Bar & Grille with Bunny Campbell and Preston Sandiford, whom he later cited as important musical influences. He left his studies after receiving an offer to tour as a trumpeter, arranger, and pianist with the bandleader Lionel Hampton and embarked on his professional career. While Jones was on the road with Hampton, he displayed a gift for arranging songs. Jones relocated to New York City, where he received a number of freelance commissions arranging songs for artists including Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa, and Ray Charles, by then a close friend.
At the age of 19, Jones traveled with jazz bandleader Lionel Hampton to Europe—and he has said that his European tour with Hampton turned him upside down, altering his view of racism in the US.
It gave you some sense of perspective on past, present, and future. It took the myopic conflict between just black and white in the United States and put it on another level because you saw the turmoil between the Armenians and the Turks, and the Cypriots and the Greeks, and the Swedes and the Danes, and the Koreans and the Japanese. Everybody had these hassles, and you saw it was a basic part of human nature, these conflicts. It opened my soul, it opened my mind.
In early 1956, Jones landed a temporary job at the CBS Stage Show, then hosted by Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey and broadcast live from the network's Studio 50 in New York City. On January 28, February 4, 11 and 18, as well as on March 17 and 24, Jones played 2nd trumpet in the Studio band that backed the then 21-year-old Elvis Presley in his first six television appearances, on the last three of which he sang "Heartbreak Hotel", which became his first #1 record and Billboard's Pop Record of the year. Soon after, as a trumpeter and musical director of the Dizzy Gillespie Band, Jones went on a tour of the Middle East and South America sponsored by the United States Information Agency. Upon his return, he signed with ABC-Paramount Records and started his recording career as the leader of his own band. In 1957 Jones settled in Paris, where he studied composition and theory with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen and performed at the Paris Olympia. Jones became music director at Barclay Records, a leading French record company and the licensee for Mercury Records in France.
During the 1950s, Jones toured Europe with a number of jazz orchestras. As musical director of Harold Arlen's jazz musical Free and Easy, he took to the road again. A European tour closed in Paris in February 1960. With musicians from the Arlen show, Jones formed his own big band, which he called "The Jones Boys", with eighteen artists. The band included double bass player Eddie Jones and fellow trumpeter Reunald Jones. They organized a tour of North America and Europe. The European and American concerts met enthusiastic audiences and sparkling reviews, but the earnings could not support a band of this size. Poor budget planning resulted in an economic disaster; the band dissolved and the fallout left Jones in a financial crisis:
We had the best jazz band on the planet, and yet we were literally starving. That's when I discovered that there was music, and there was the music business. If I were to survive, I would have to learn the difference between the two.
Irving Green, head of Mercury Records, helped Jones with a personal loan and a new job as the musical director of the company's New York division. There he worked with Doug Moody, who founded Mystic Records.
In 1961, Jones was promoted to vice-president of Mercury Records, becoming the first African American to hold the position. That same year, he turned his attention to film scores, another musical arena long closed to African Americans. At the invitation of director Sidney Lumet, he composed the music for The Pawnbroker (1964). It was the first of his nearly 40 major motion picture scores.
Following the success of The Pawnbroker, Jones left Mercury Records and moved to Los Angeles. After composing the film scores for Mirage and The Slender Thread in 1965, he was in constant demand as a composer. His film credits over the next seven years included Walk, Don't Run, The Deadly Affair, In Cold Blood, In the Heat of the Night, Mackenna's Gold, The Italian Job, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Cactus Flower, The Out-Of-Towners, They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!, The Anderson Tapes, $ (Dollars), and The Getaway. In addition, he composed "The Streetbeater", which became familiar as the theme music for the television sitcom Sanford and Son, starring close friend Redd Foxx, and the themes for other TV shows, including Ironside, Banacek, The Bill Cosby Show, the opening episode of Roots, and the Mark Goodson-Bill Todman game show Now You See It.
In the 1960s, Jones worked as an arranger for some of the era's most important artists, including Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nana Mouskouri, Shirley Horn, Peggy Lee, and Dinah Washington. Jones's solo recordings also gained acclaim, including Walking in Space, Gula Matari, Smackwater Jack, You've Got It Bad Girl, Body Heat, Mellow Madness, and I Heard That!!
Jones's 1962 tune "Soul Bossa Nova", which originated on the Big Band Bossa Nova album, was used for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, the Canadian game show Definition, the Woody Allen film Take the Money and Run, and the Austin Powers film series. It was sampled by Canadian hiphop group Dream Warriors in their song "My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style".
Jones produced all four million-selling singles for Lesley Gore during the early and mid-sixties, including "It's My Party" (UK No. 8; US No. 1), its sequel "Judy's Turn to Cry" (US No. 5), "She's a Fool" (also a US No. 5) in 1963, and "You Don't Own Me" (US No. 2 for four weeks in 1964). He continued to produce for Gore until 1966, including the Greenwich/ Barry hits "Look of Love" (US No. 27 in 1965) and "Maybe I Know" (UK No. 20; US No. 14 in 1964).Logo of Quincy Jones Productions used from 1970s to early 1990s
In 1975, Jones founded Qwest Productions, for which he arranged and produced hugely successful albums by Frank Sinatra and other major pop figures. In 1978, he produced the soundtrack for The Wiz, the musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, whose feature film version starred Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. In 1982, Jones produced Jackson's all-time best-selling album, Thriller.
Jones's 1981 album The Dude yielded multiple hit singles, including "Ai No Corrida" (a remake of a song by Chaz Jankel), "Just Once", and "One Hundred Ways", the latter two featuring James Ingram on lead vocals and marking Ingram's first hits; the album also incorporated "Baby, Come to Me", on which Ingram duetted with Patti Austin. In 1985, Jones co-produced and wrote the score for Steven Spielberg's film adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple. He and Thomas Newman (from Bridge of Spies) are the only composers besides John Williams to have scored a Spielberg theatrical film. (Spielberg directed a segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie that was scored by Jerry Goldsmith). Marking Jones's debut as a film producer, The Color Purple received 11 Oscar nominations that year. Additionally, through this picture, Jones is credited with introducing Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey to film audiences around the world.
After the 1985 American Music Awards ceremony, Jones used his influence to draw most of the major American recording artists of the day into a studio to record the song "We Are the World" to raise money for the victims of Ethiopia's famine. When people marveled at his ability to make the collaboration work, Jones explained that he had taped a sign on the entrance reading, "Check Your Ego at the Door". He was also quoted as saying: "We don't want to make a hunger record in tuxedos", requiring all participants to wear casual clothing in the studio.Quincy Jones in Venice in 1989
In 1990, Quincy Jones Productions joined forces with Time Warner, Inc. to create Quincy Jones Entertainment (QJE). The company signed a 10-picture deal with Warner Brothers and a two-series deal with NBC Productions. The television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was completed in 1990, but producers of In the House (from UPN) later rejected its early concept stages. Jones produced the highly successful The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (discovering Will Smith), UPN's In the House, and FOX's Madtv – which ran for 14 seasons. In the early 1990s, Jones started a huge, ongoing project called "The Evolution of Black Music". QJE also started a weekly talk show with Jones's friend the Reverend Jesse Jackson as the host.
Beginning in the late 1970s, Jones tried to convince Miles Davis to revive the music he had recorded on several classic albums of the 1960s, which had been arranged by Gil Evans. Davis had always refused, citing a desire not to revisit the past. But in 1991, Davis relented. He was suffering from pneumonia, whose complications eventually ended his life, and agreed to perform the music at a concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The recording, Miles & Quincy Live at Montreux, was Davis's last released album; he died several months afterward. It is considered an artistic triumph.
In 1993, Jones collaborated with David Salzman to produce the concert extravaganza An American Reunion, a celebration of Bill Clinton's inauguration as president of the United States. The same year, Jones joined forces with Salzman and renamed his company Quincy Jones/David Salzman Entertainment (QDE).
In 2001, Jones published his autobiography, Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones. On July 31, 2007, he partnered with Wizzard Media to launch the Quincy Jones Video Podcast. In each episode, Jones shares his knowledge and experience in the music industry. The first episode features him in the studio, producing "I Knew I Loved You" for Celine Dion. This is featured on the Ennio Morricone tribute album, We All Love Ennio Morricone. Jones is also noted for helping produce Anita Hall's 2009 album Send Love.
In recent years, Jones has mentored young musicians and produced various albums. In 2013 he produced Emily Bear's album Diversity. After that, he produced albums released by artists such as Alfredo Rodríguez, Nikki Yanofsky, Andreas Varady, Justin Kauflin, and Grace. He also became a mentor of Jacob Collier.
In 2017, Jones and French producer Reza Ackbaraly launched Qwest TV, the world's first subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service for jazz and eclectic music from around the world. The platform features a handpicked selection of ad-free concerts, interviews, documentaries, and exclusive, original content, all in HD or 4K.
While working on the film The Wiz, Michael Jackson asked Jones to recommend some producers for his upcoming solo album. Jones offered some names but eventually offered to produce the record himself. Jackson accepted and the resulting record, Off the Wall, ultimately sold about 20 million copies. This made Jones the most powerful record producer in the industry at that time. Jones and Jackson's next collaboration, Thriller, sold 110 million copies and became the highest-selling album of all time. (The rise of MTV and the advent of music videos as promotional tools also contributed to Thriller's multimillion-copy sales figures and high monetary grosses.) Jones also worked on Jackson's album Bad, which has sold 45 million copies. Bad was the last time the two men worked together in the studio. Audio interviews with Jones are featured in the 2001 special editions of Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad. In a 2002 interview, when asked if he would work with Jones again, Jackson suggested he might. But in 2007, when Jones was asked by NME, he said: "Man, please! We already did that. I have talked to him about working with him again but I've got too much to do. I've got 900 products, I'm 74 years old."
Following Jackson's death on June 25, 2009, Jones said:
I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news. For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age, I just don't have the words. Divinity brought our souls together on The Wiz and allowed us to do what we were able to throughout the '80s. To this day, the music we created together on Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad is played in every corner of the world and the reason for that is because he had it all...talent, grace, professionalism and dedication. He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I've lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him.
In October 2013, the BBC and The Hollywood Reporter said Jones planned to sue Michael Jackson's estate for $10 million. Jones said that MJJ Productions, a song company managed by Jackson's estate and Sony Music Entertainment, improperly reedited songs to deprive him of royalties and production fees and breached an agreement giving him the right to remix master recordings for albums released after Jackson's death. The songs Jones produced for Jackson were used in the film This Is It. Jones was reported to be filing the suits against Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil productions and the 25th-anniversary edition of the Bad album. He believed he should have received a producer credit in the film.
Quincy Jones first worked with Frank Sinatra in 1958 when invited by Princess Grace to arrange a benefit concert at the Monaco Sporting Club. Six years later, Sinatra hired him to arrange and conduct Sinatra's second album with Count Basie, It Might as Well Be Swing (1964). Jones conducted and arranged the singer's live album with the Basie Band, Sinatra at the Sands (1966). Jones was also the arranger/conductor when Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and Johnny Carson performed with the Basie orchestra in June 1965 in St. Louis, Missouri, in a benefit for Dismas House. The fund-raiser was broadcast to movie theaters around the country and eventually released on DVD. Later that year, Jones was the arranger/conductor when Sinatra and Basie appeared on The Hollywood Palace TV show on October 16, 1965. Nineteen years later, Sinatra and Jones teamed up for 1984's L.A. Is My Lady. Jones said,
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.
A great admirer of Brazilian culture, in 2009 Jones announced that he was planning a film on Brazil's "Carnival", describing it as "one of the most spectacular spiritual events on the planet". The Brazilians Simone, whom he cites as "one of the world's greatest singers", Ivan Lins, Milton Nascimento, percussionist Paulinho Da Costa, "one of the best in the business", have become close friends and partners in his recent works.
Jones had a brief appearance in the 1990 video for The Time song "Jerk Out". Jones was a guest actor on an episode of The Boondocks. He appeared with Ray Charles in the music video of their song "One Mint Julep" and also with Ray Charles and Chaka Khan in the music video of their song "I'll Be Good to You". Jones hosted an episode of the long-running NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live on February 10, 1990 (during SNL's 15th season). The episode was notable for having 10 musical guests (the most any SNL episode has had in its 40 plus years on the air): Tevin Campbell, Andrae Crouch, Sandra Crouch, rappers Kool Moe Dee and Big Daddy Kane, Melle Mel, Quincy D III, Siedah Garrett, Al Jarreau, and Take 6, and for a performance of Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca" by The SNL Band (conducted by Quincy Jones). Jones impersonated Marion Barry, former mayor of Washington, DC, in the recurring sketch The Bob Waltman Special. He later produced his own sketch comedy show, FOX's MADtv, which ran from 1995 to 2009.
Jones appeared in the Walt Disney Pictures film Fantasia 2000, introducing the set piece of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Two years later he made a cameo appearance as himself in the film Austin Powers in Goldmember. On February 10, 2008, Jones joined Usher in presenting the Grammy Award for Album of the Year to Herbie Hancock. On January 6, 2009, he appeared on NBC's Last Call with Carson Daly to discuss his career. Daly informally floated the idea that Jones should become the first minister of culture for the United States, pending the inauguration of Barack Obama as president. Daly noted that only the US and Germany, among leading world countries, did not have a cabinet-level position for this role. Commentators on NPR and in the Chronicle of Higher Education have also discussed the topic of a minister of culture.
In February 2014, Jones appeared in Keep on Keepin' On, a documentary about his friend, Clark Terry, the jazz trumpeter and flugelhorn player. In the film, Terry introduces Jones to his protege, Justin Kauflin, whom Jones then signs to his band and label. In July 2014, Jones starred in a documentary film, The Distortion of Sound. In September 2015, he was a guest on Dr. Dre's The Pharmacy on Beats 1 Radio. He was also featured on Jacob Collier's YouTube cover of Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)". On February 28, 2016, he and Pharell Williams presented Ennio Morricone with the Oscar for best film score. and in August 2016, he and his music were featured at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall,l London.
Jones's social activism began in the 1960s with his support of Martin Luther King Jr. Jones is one of the founders of the Institute for Black American Music (IBAM), whose events aim to raise enough funds for the creation of a national library of African-American art and music. Jones is also one of the founders of the Black Arts Festival in his hometown of Chicago. In the 1970s Jones formed The Quincy Jones Workshops. Meeting at the Los Angeles Landmark Variety Arts Center, the workshops educated and honed the skills of inner-city youth in musicianship, acting, and songwriting. Among its alumni were Alton McClain who had a hit song with Alton McClain and Destiny, and Mark Wilkins, who co-wrote the hit song "Havin' a Love Attack" with Mandrill and became National Promotion Director for Mystic Records.
For many years, Jones has worked closely with Bono of U2 on a number of philanthropic endeavors. He is the founder of the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation, a nonprofit organization that built more than 100 homes in South Africa and which aims to connect youths with technology, education, culture, and music. One of the organization's programs is an intercultural exchange between underprivileged youths from Los Angeles and South Africa. In 2004, Jones helped launch the We Are the Future (WAF) project, which gives children in poor and conflict-ridden areas a chance to live their childhoods and develop a sense of hope. The program is the result of a strategic partnership between the Global Forum, the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation, and Hani Masri, with the support of the World Bank, UN agencies and major companies. The project was launched with a concert in Rome, Italy, in front of an audience of half a million people.
Jones supports a number of other charities, including the NAACP, GLAAD, Peace Games, AmfAR, and the Maybach Foundation. He serves on the Advisory Board of HealthCorps. On July 26, 2007, he announced his endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president. But with the election of Barack Obama, Quincy Jones said that his next conversation "with President Obama to beg for a secretary of arts." This prompted the circulation of a petition on the internet asking Obama to create such a Cabinet-level position in his administration. In 2001, Jones became an honorary member of the board of directors of the Jazz Foundation of America. He has worked with the foundation to save the homes and lives of America's elderly jazz and blues musicians, including those who survived Hurricane Katrina. Jones and his friend John Sie, founder of Liberty Starz, started the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. They were inspired by Sie's granddaughter, Sophia, who has Down syndrome.
Jones is a believer in astrology. In regard to religion, in a Vulture interview published in February 2018, he stated he believes in a God that opposes the love of money but dismisses the notion of an afterlife; he holds a negative opinion of the Catholic Church, believing it is built upon the notions of money, "fear, smoke, and murder". He also claimed to have knowledge of the truth of the Kennedy assassination, stating his belief that mobster Sam Giancana was responsible, as well as outed sexual relationships Marlon Brando had with James Baldwin, Richard Pryor, and Marvin Gaye. In the same interview, Jones stated he dated Ivanka Trump, despite expressing disdain for her father. He later apologized for the interview after a family intervention with his six daughters, blaming the things he said on "word vomit".
Jones can speak some Persian. He has never learned to drive, citing a car accident he was in at age 14 as the reason.
With the help of the author Alex Haley in 1972 and Mormon researchers in Salt Lake City, Jones discovered that his mother's ancestors included James Lanier, a relative of Sidney Lanier, the poet. Jones said in an interview, "He had a baby with my great-grandmother, and my grandmother was born there . We traced this all the way back to the Laniers, the same family as Tennessee Williams." Learning that the Lanier immigrant ancestors were French Huguenot refugees, who had court musicians among their ancestors, Jones attributed some of his musicianship to them. In a 2009 BBC interview, Jones said Haley also helped him learn that his father was of part Welsh ancestry.
For the 2006 PBS television program African American Lives, Jones had his DNA tested, and genealogists researched his family history again. His DNA revealed he is mostly African but is also 34% European in ancestry, on both sides of his family. Research showed that he has Welsh, English, French, and Italian ancestry, with European ancestry in his direct patrilineal line (Y DNA). Through his direct matrilineal line (mt DNA), he is of West African/Central African ancestry of Tikar descent, a people centered in present-day Cameroon. He also has European matrilinear ancestry, such as Lanier male ancestors who fought for the Confederacy, making him eligible for Sons of Confederate Veterans. Among his ancestors is Betty Washington Lewis, a sister of president George Washington. Jones is also a direct descendant of Edward I of England; Edward's ancestors included Rurik, Polish, Swiss, and French nobility.
In 1974, Jones suffered a life-threatening brain aneurysm, so he decided to cut back on his schedule to spend time with his friends and family. Since his family and friends believed Jones' life was coming to an end, they started to plan a memorial service for him. He attended his own service with his neurologist by his side, in case the excitement overwhelmed him. Some of the entertainers at his service were Richard Pryor, Marvin Gaye, Sarah Vaughan, and Sidney Poitier.
Jones has been married three times. In total, he has seven children with five different women:
In 1994, rapper Tupac Shakur criticized Jones for having relationships with white women, prompting Jones's daughter Rashida to pen a scathing open letter in response, published in The Source. Rashida's sister Kidada developed a romantic relationship with Shakur and had been living with the rapper for four months at the time of his death.
In addition to receiving recognition specifically for his music and arrangements, Jones has been recognized for his overall contributions to music and humanitarian goals. He has received numerous honorary doctorates and been invited to speak at college and university commencement ceremonies.
Quincy Jones supports the following charitable causes: Health Education, Disaster Relief, AIDS, Hunger, Diabetes, Human Rights, Arts Education, Rape/Sexual Abuse, Autism, Domestic Violence, Peace, Children, LGBTQ Rights.