Philanthropic entertainer Quincy Jones leaves an impact on the world as a
When it comes to Black history most people speak of inventors, scientists, civil rights leaders, or even ancient royalty. We rarely make musicians the topic when discussing African American history. The irony of this is that music is and has always been such a big part of culture and history.
Taking a closer look at African American history will reveal that musicians have also made strides as inventors, scientists, and civil rights activists. Although musicians are entertainers, there are still facets of skill and purpose involved. Playing an instrument, composing, or using your voice as an instrument all require skill. Being a musician also provides a platform, but then each of them must decide how to use that platform.
Quincy Jones has an ongoing career of 60 years in the entertainment industry. Over the course of his career, he has transitioned from a man behind great music to the man in front of important causes. For Quincy, being a famous musician and social activist go hand and hand.
Opportunity awaits preparation
Quincy was born in March of 1933 on the South Side of Chicago. Like many African Americans during this time, his family migrated from the south. There was a period known as the Great Migration which led many families northward and his family settled in Chicago. With this move, they weren’t too far removed from the ugliness of the south considering his paternal grandmother was an ex-slave in Louisville.
While growing up Jones had a neighbor who he could hear playing piano through the walls. Listening through the walls was not enough for him so he eventually fulfilled his desire to play the keys with his neighbor. His childhood, unfortunately, turned from sweet to bitter when his mother suffered a schizophrenic breakdown. She was taken to a mental institution shortly after that and his father eventually remarried.
Around 1943, Quincy and his newly formed family moved to Seattle, Washington where he developed his skills as a trumpeter and arranger. At the age of 14, he met 16-year-old Ray Charles after witnessing a performance which was quite inspiring to him. His talent offered him several scholarships that he took full advantage of by attending several different schools via transfers. He was also given the opportunity to tour with Lionel Hampton. This opportunity took him through Europe which ultimately affected his views of racism in the U.S.
By the time he was 23, he was working for CBS as part of their band, playing the trumpet for a young Elvis, and touring the Middle East and South America. As time went on he began to get even better opportunities and was given more musical responsibility. He even moved to Paris and became the vice-president of Mercury, a record label in France. He made history in doing so becoming the first African American to hold the position.
Welcome to the Big League
Young Quincy Jones had experienced both success and failure in his career as it continued to grow. He was also learning that there was more to the music business than simply having talent and applying it. As he learned from his mistakes and began to progress he got the chance to compose his first movie in 1961. The music for “The Pawnbroker” released in 1964 was composed by Quincy Jones. It was his first of many as his career boasts nearly 40 major motion picture scores. His compositions even spread to television composing for shows like “Sanford and Son”, starring his close friend Redd Foxx.
He also continued to produce and arrange for popular recording artists of the time. Quincy then applied his talent to film production producing films like “The Wiz”. In 1985 he made his way into philanthropy by using his influence to gather major American recording artists to record the song “We Are the World“. The goal was to raise money for the victims of famine in Ethiopia. Switching gears again he dove headfirst into television production producing shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” which is still a cultural favorite in the 21st century.
Quincy Jones has a career that is still going after 60 years. In this 60 years, he has accomplished so many things there isn’t enough time or space to appropriately capture it here. Nonetheless, he is the epitome of a living legend. Quincy gave us Michael Jackson’s Thriller (with Michael’s help of course), an autobiography, countless musical productions, a wide variety of compositions, television shows, and movies. He holds a record of 80 Grammy Award nominations with 28 Grammys and a Grammy Legend Award in 1992.
In addition to all of that, as of 2017, he got together with French producer Reza Ackbaraly to start Qwest TV. It’s the world’s first subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service for jazz and eclectic music from around the world. At age 86, Quincy is the gift that just keeps on giving. He has been very vocal as a social activist since the 1960s including being a founding father of the Institute for Black American Music. His philanthropic efforts have built homes in South Africa, assisted underprivileged children, and supported a numerous amount of charitable causes.
Quincy’s life and career exemplify Black History. It reeks of trauma, perseverance, setbacks, and triumph. He also brought others along for the ride to accompany him in his triumph. Through it all, he never forgot where he came from and makes a conscious effort to give back. He also strives to educate the youth from a cultural and historical aspect.
Each of us may not have the outreach that Quincy Jones has but each of us have our own power. If we use our strengths to build one another up we will go farther. The accomplishment of one can benefit many. If each one continues to teach one, Black history will continue to evolve.
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