Born way back in 1933, legendary producer, bandleader and musician Quincy Jones celebrates his 83rd birthday today. With a career spanning 6 decades and a back catalogue that boasts some of the best albums ever made, the Chicago born Jones has been at the forefront of the music scene since the mid 1950s. With that in mind, let’s look back at one of America’s most influential musicians of all time.
Boasting a status that is unparalleled, Jones started out his career as a trumpeter and musical director for the likes of Ray Charles, Duke Ellington and celebrated American jazz singer, Sarah Vaughan. Working his way up the ranks during the ‘50s, Jones’ big breakthrough came in 1964. Promoted to Vice-President of Mercury Records, he became the first African-American to take charge of an executive position in a predominately white company.
Moving on from Mercury and relocating to L.A, Jones began producing scores for movies as well as working with some of the most important artists of the ‘60s, including Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee. It wasn’t until the late 70s however, and the introduction of Michael Jackson, when Jones truly solidified himself into music history, penning the soundtrack for The Wiz, starring Jackson and Diana Ross. Jones went on to produce Jackson’s sixth studio album Thriller; becoming the best selling album of all time and bagging a record breaking eight Grammy Awards in 1984! The longevity of Thriller was, and still is, universal.
Going back to the movies in the mid ‘80s, Jones worked with the infamous Steven Spielberg on the score for The Colour Purple, whilst pulling a number of big name artists such as Michael Jackson once again, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen to record the charity single We Are The World, which became the fastest selling American pop single in history. His work with Jackson continued, producing Off the Wall and Bad, arguably MJ’s most influential albums alongside Thriller. Jones produced the TV show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air too, just to add to his production credits.
His importance then, is paramount. His musical direction, from the ‘50s through to the present day, has created some of the best albums of all time. Even politically, Jones is a figure of significance. An avid supporter of Martin Luther King Jr, he is one of the co-founders of the Institute of Black American Music and has supported a number of charities including NAACP, the African-American civil rights organisation, and amFar, a non profit organisation which researches AIDS and HIV prevention.
Prominent across music, television, social activism and politics, Jones is still going strong today. Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2013 and awarded an honouree doctorate from the Royal Academy of Music in London only last year, we salute the legendary producer. Happy 83rd Quincy, and, as he writes in his own words:
‘When you’re over the hill, that’s when you pick up speed’