Last week, I was washing clothes and preparing for my vacation this week. My usual habit is to watch YouTube videos, listen to podcasts, or catch up on my Netflix shows while doing housework or packing. I came across Quincy, a documentary about the life of the legendary Quincy Jones. I was both captivated and intrigued by the many stories that were told throughout the picture. I realized that I didn’t really know much about Quincy Jones before watching this doc. As a child, I remember hearing the name Quincy Jones; however, in my mind, he was already a legend and seemingly dropped out of the sky that way. I never really knew much about his early years or how he came to be the music legend that he is.
Quincy is narrated by the Chicago-born Quincy Delight Jones, Jr. and directed by his daughter, Rashida Jones. The fascinating doc weaves his current state of being with stories of his past. We get to hear him discuss how he fell in love with music after discovering a piano and eventually learned to play many instruments like the trombone, french horn, percussion, and trumpet. Those memories are juxtaposed with present-day moments, such as a few recent major health scares.
In his early years, Quincy’s father relocated to Seattle. There, 14-year-old Quincy, Jr. met a 16-year-old Ray Charles. He began trumpet playing and eventually arranging for Ray Charles. At 19, he toured with Lionel Hampton’s band as a trumpeter, arranger and pianist. He later moved to New York City where he arranged for artists like Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington.
In the documentary, he talks about the racial climate of the country at the time and how he was able to cope in the music business:
“I had no control over where I live. No control over my sick mother. I couldn’t control the angry whites who still called me n***** when they caught me alone on the street. But music was one thing I could control. It was the one thing that offered me my freedom.”
– Quincy Jones, Jr.
We learn that in 1952, he studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, an expatriate American composer who taught composers and bandleaders. In the 60’s, he produced hits for Leslie Gore like “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me”. He also conducted for Frank Sinatra and arranged It Might as Well Be Swing, accompanied by Count Basie and his orchestra.
Quincy later tried his hand at the movie and television industries by scoring soundtracks. He composed “The Streetbeater”, which eventually became the theme song of the sitcom Sanford and Son. He produced 1985’s The Color Purple, directed by Steven Spielberg, and he also produced television series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and UPN’s In the House featuring Will Smith & L. L. Cool J, respectively.
The documentary gives us a glimpse of his personal life and relationships with his three wives and children; however, it doesn’t delve too deep. Quincy touches on his relationship with his mother, who suffered with schizophrenia, and how it sadly affected him throughout his life’s journey.
Quincy is an important documentary to watch for music lovers and those that know of Quincy Jones but don’t REALLY KNOW everything that he has done. Quincy Jones began as a jazz arranger and composer but has grown to break down the walls of all genres of music. In his lifetime, he has recorded over 2900 songs, 300 albums, 51 film/television scores and over 1000 original compositions. He is responsible for both the bestselling album and single of all time: Michael Jackson’s Thriller and “We are the World”. He has been a leader in philanthropy for decades. He has amassed 27 of 79 Grammy nominations and is one of 21 EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winners, including non-competitive/honorary awards.
It is a fact that Quincy Jones, Jr. is a dynamic force in music and a major player in American music culture. I learned so much about Quincy’s professional life that it inspired me to further research and listen to his music. I encourage everyone to check out Quincy on Netflix as soon as possible.
Also check out the official Spotify playlist Quincy: Music from my Netflix Original for music featured in the documentary; you may discover something familiar.