"The role of music in television, or movies, serves two functions: it deals with tension and release. It has a magical ability to paint the psyche emotionally. We call it sometimes 'emotion lotion,' because it hits you. Nothing hits you harder than music."
About This Interview
In his two-and-one-half-hour Archive interview, noted musician, composer and producer Quincy Jones details his tumultuous early years and pinpoints the moment his life changed as he became interested in music. He talks about starting his music career as an arranger and discusses his quick rise in the music industry. He chronicles his television work which includes composing music for such classics as Ironside, Roots, Sanford & Son, The Cosby Show and his producing such series as Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and In the House. Jon Burlingame conducted the interview in Bel Air, CA on November 13, 2002.
Quincy Jones' long career as a music composer lends insight into popular music's influence on the television and film media. In 1951, a teenaged Jones began working as a trumpet player and arranger for Lionel Hampton. During his early career, he played with some of the best known names in Black bebop and jazz, performers such as Count Basie, Clark Terry, Ray Charles, Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sarah Vaughan. His musical talent allowed him to tour Europe, the Middle East and South Africa during the 1950s. In 1957, he studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. During this period he also became a major publisher of music.
However, failed business ventures in 1959 forced him to sell his music publishing catalogue. Jones overcame this major financial setback by working as an executive at A and M Records and by working as an arranger for Dinah Washington in New York City. Signed as an executive in 1961 and then rising to the position of Vice President of Mercury Records in 1964, Jones was the first African American executive at a major record label.
In 1961, Jet magazine, a weekly entertainment periodical directed to an African American readership, awarded him the title of best arranger and composer. But despite honors from his African American community and excellent critical reviews, Jones recognized that jazz music was not earning high record sales. He decided then to produce more commercial songs. In 1963, he branched out to develop the talent of a white teenage singer, Lesley Gore, with whom he recorded the pop hit "It's My Party." Jones continued to work with talented white artists such as Frank Sinatra for whom he conducted and arranged Sinatra: Live in Las Vegas at the Sands with Count Basie (1966). By adapting to technological changes that gave more control to engineers and producers, Jones acheived commercial success in the music recording industry during the 1960s. Yet, he still desired to compose scores for motion pictures and his success allowed him to pursue the small openings in media industries previously closed to African American artists.
After Jones scored his first film The Boy in the Tree (1961), he scored The Pawnbroker (1963) for director Sidney Lumet. His first major Hollywood contract was with Universal Pictures. Jones became an African American pioneer in film and television industries during 1966-69 and he had few black colleagues. But television news reports were increasingly presenting images of discord and America was coming to terms with growing racial conflict. Amidst the struggle for civil rights, Jones worked in Hollywood to help destroy the negative stereotypes of African Americans. In 1965, he was hired to score the film Mirage, starring Gregory Peck and he scored In The Heat Of The Night (1967) starring the top box office star of the era, Sydney Poitier.
In 1965, Jones reinforced his ability to compose music for the screen by scoring the pilot and eight episodes of the dramatic television series Ironside. In creating the Ironside theme, he was the first composer to utilize a synthesizer in the arrangement of a television score. During the same year he composed the theme to the television movie, Split Second to an Epitaph. Jones also wrote the theme song for Bill Cosby's first situation comedy, The Bill Cosby Show (NBC, 1970) and went on to score 56 episodes.
In a brief two week period between film and television scores, Jones returned to record making with the jazz album, Walking. The album won a Grammy as best jazz performance by a large group in 1969.
In 1972, Jones wrote the theme to the NBC Mystery Movie series and his momentum in the television industry continued to grow. During the same year, he scored 26 episodes of The Bill Cosby Variety Series and in 1973, he composed the theme to the comedy program, Sanford and Son, starring comedian Redd Foxx.
In 1974, soon after his Body Heat album reached the top of the music charts, Jones suffered from health problems. A brain aneurysm required two surgical procedures and a promise to stop playing the trumpet.
After a four year hiatus, during which he concentrated on his own music productions, Jones returned to television in 1977 to score the ABC miniseries, Roots, one of the highest rated programs in television history. His score accented the exploration of African chants and rhythms as indigenous to American culture and garnered Jones an Emmy Award. Coinciding with this success in television, he scored The Wiz (1977), a Universal Pictures all Black version of The Wizard of Oz, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.
From the time between 1963, when Jones entered the Hollywood film industry as a film composer, and 1990 he had earned thirty-eight film credits. Most notably, he co-produced the critically acclaimed film, The Color Purple (1985) with director Steven Spielberg. In 1994, Jones was honored with an Academy Award for his achievements in the film industry.
Despite his success in television and film, Quincy Jones never lost interest in spotting talent in black music. During the 1970s, he continued to cultivate new performers in this arena. He created technically advanced, funk influenced albums for The Brothers Johnson, Chaka Kahn and Rufus. In 1977, he produced Michael Jackson's Off the Wall album, which succeeded in selling seven million albums--before the invention of MTV. His record breaking pop album Thriller, for Michael Jackson in 1984, became a musical landmark.
In 1981, Jones left A and M and formed his own Qwest label at Warner Brothers. The Qwest label produced hits for Patty Austin and James Ingram and captured Lena Horne's performance on Broadway; these recording projects earned him Grammy awards. In 1985, Jones produced the all-star recording of "We Are The World" to help performer Harry Belafonte realize a charity drive to raise world awareness of famine. From the song's popular music video, Quincy Jones, long been familiar through his music, became a recognizable face to the general public. He raised money for Jesse Jackson's historic run for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1988 and produced The Jesse Jackson Show in 1990, granting a forum to a high profile black figure in U.S. politics.
Jones also discovered a larger television audience by producing situation comedies. In 1991, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air premiered starring a popular rap artist, Will Smith, to become a highly rated program on NBC. In 1990, Jones formed the multi-media entertainment organization, Quincy Jones Entertainment Company and Quincy Jones Broadcasting, to acquire television and radio properties. In 1995, Jones hopes to repeat his television success with the situation comedy, In the House, starring Debbie Allen and rap artist LL Cool J.
While overcoming racial barriers and redefining several genres in music composition, Quincy Jones' creative persistence in the music business helped to maneuver black music across the color line of the musical mainstream and into every form of media expression. Jones' body of work spans five decades and opened the door for the growth of successful black entrepreneurs in television, film and music. Since Miles Davis' death, many critics cite Quincy Jones as the only remaining figure from the bebop era who has stayed contemporary and whose work continues to have an impact on these three closely integrated media industries.
QUINCY (DELIGHT) JONES. Born 14 March 1933 in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. Attended Seattle University, Seattle, Washington, Berklee School of Music, Boston; studied with Nadia Boulanger and Oliver Messiaen, Paris. Married: 1) Jeri Caldwell, 1957 (divorced), 2) Ulla Anderson, 1965 (divorced), 3) Peggy Lipton, 1974 (divorced); seven children. Began career as jazz trumpeter and arranger for numerous big bands and solo performers; music director, Mercury Records, 1961; vice president, Mercury Records, 1964; composer, film and television music, from 1960s; founded Qwest recording company, 1981; record producer for Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, and other artists; television producer from 1990. Recipient: numerous Grammy awards; Emmy award, 1977; Polar Music Prize (Sweden), 1994; Academy Award, 1994. Address: Rogers and Cowan, Inc., 10000 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angelses, California, 90067, U.S.A.
1966-67 Hey, Landlord (composer) 1967-75 Ironside (composer) 1967 Split Second to an Epitaph (composer) 1970 The Bill Cosby Show (composer) 1972 The NBC Mystery Movie (composer) 1972 The Bill Cosby Variety Series (composer) 1973 Sanford and Son (composer) 1977 Roots (composer) 1990 The Jesse Jackson Show (producer) 1991 Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (producer) 1995- In the House (producer)
1967 Rodgers and Hart Today (music director) 1971 The Academy Awards (conductor) 1971 Merv Griffin Presents Quincy Jones (performer) 1973 Duke Ellington, We Love You Madly (co-producer and conductor) 1973 A Show Business Salute to Milton Berle (music director) 1990 Grammy Legends (honoree) 1991 Ray Charles: 50 Years of Music, Uh-Huh! (co-host)
The Boy in the Tree, 1960; The Pawnbroker, 1965; The Slender Thread, 1965; Mirage, 1965; Made in Paris, 1965; Walk Don't Run, 1966; The Deadly Affair, 1967; Enter Laughing, 1967; In Cold Blood, 1967; Banning, 1967; In the Heat of the Night, 1967; A Dandy in Aspic, 1968; Jigsaw, 1968; The Counterfeit Killers, 1968; For Love of Ivy, 1968; The Hell with Heroes, 1968; MacKenna's Gold, 1969; The Italian Job, 1969; The Lost Man, 1969; Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, 1969; Cactus Flower, 1969; John and Mary, 1969; Blood Kin, 1969; The Out-of-Towners, 1970; They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!, 1970; Eggs, (short), 1970; Of Men and Demons (short), 1970; Up Your Teddy Bear, 1970; Brother John, 1970; The Anderson Tapes, 1971; Honky, 1971; $ (The Heist), 1971; The Hot Rock, 1972; The New Centurions, 1972; The Getaway, 1972; Killer by Night, 1972; Mother, Jugs, and Speed, 1976; The Wiz, 1978; Portrait of an Album (also director), 1985; Fast Forward, 1985; Lost in America, 1985; The Slugger's Wife, 1985; The Color Purple, 1985; Heart and Soul, 1988; Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones, 1991; A Great Day in Harlem (narrator), 1994.