Happy Birthday to one of the greatest musical minds of the 20th Century, the iconic Quincy Jones who turns 80 today. “Q” has created a musical legacy that may never be equaled in our lifetime or ever again.
Jones, at various times during his career, has been a record producer, conductor, arranger, composer, television producer, and trumpeter. Spanning five decades in the entertainment industry, Jones has garnered a record 79 Grammy Award nominations, 27 Grammys, including a Grammy Legend Award in 1991.
In 1964, Jones was promoted to vice-president Mercury Records, thus becoming the first African American to hold such an executive position in a white-owned record company. In that same year, Quincy Jones turned his attention to another musical arena that had long been closed to blacks – the world of film scores. At the invitation of director Sidney Lumet, he composed the music for The Pawnbroker. It was the first of his 33 major motion picture scores.
In 1968, Jones and his songwriting partner Bob Russell became the first African Americans to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song; “The Eyes of Love” from the film Banning. That same year, he became the first African American to be nominated twice within the same year for an Academy Award for Best Original Score for his work on the music of the 1967 film, In Cold Blood. In 1971, Jones would receive the honor of becoming the first African American to be named musical director/conductor of the Academy Awards ceremony. He was the first African American to win the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, in 1995. He is tied with sound designer Willie D. Burton as the most Oscar-nominated African American, each of them having seven nominations.
Following the success of The Pawnbroker, Jones left Mercury Records and moved to Los Angeles. After his film score for The Slender Thread, starring Sidney Poitier, he was in constant demand as a composer. His film credits in the next five years included Walk, Don’t Run, In Cold Blood, In the Heat of the Night, A Dandy in Aspic, Mackenna’s Gold, The Italian Job, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, The Lost Man, Cactus Flower, and The Getaway. In addition, he also composed the theme for “The Streetbeater,” which became familiar as the theme music for the television sitcom Sanford and Son, starring close friend Redd Foxx.
In 1985, Jones scored the Steven Spielberg film adaptation of The Color Purple. He and Jerry Goldsmith (from Twilight Zone: The Movie) are the only composers besides John Williams to have scored a Spielberg theatrical film. 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’d taped a simple sign on the entrance: “Check Your Ego At The Door”.
Check out some images from Jones’ distinguished career, below: