Quincy Jones is one of the most decorated and versatile musicians to date.
Jones was born in Bronzeville after his family moved to Chicago during the great migration. One of his biggest musical influences as a child was his mother, who actually had a schizophrenic breakdown when he was young and was sent to a mental hospital and his neighbor who had a piano. Then, when he was 14 his family moved to Washington state where he met Ray Charles, who he cites as his main inspiration.
He got his start playing trumpet and touring with various orchestras and jazz groups. His first decade of albums were various recordings of orchestras he toured with and eventually his own “big band” which had about 15 members.
In the 1960s he began producing movie soundtracks. The first score that brought him into the limelight was the music for The Pawnbroker, a 1965 film about Jewish WWII survivor who find himself in East Harlem running a pawnshop. He went on to compose and produce 51 film and television score, many of which contributed to his 79 Grammy nominations.
Jones had plenty of his own hits but the majority of his fame comes from his producing. Most famously, in 1979 he collaborated with the Michael Jackson to produce Off the Wall. This was the first of three collaborations with Jackson (he went on to produce Thriller as well). She’s Out of My Life, was written for Jones but he allowed Jackson to use it on Off the Wall, Jackson’s first solo album.
The 1980s brought us some classic 80s love songs from Jones. His album The Dude, released in 1981, was nominated for 12 Grammys and won three: Best Instrumental Arrangement, Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and Best Instrumental Arrangement (Accompanying Vocalists). The three singles released from the album all charted on the US Top 40.
Jones has continued producing and recording with many famous musical artists to this day. A movie released about Jones’ life in 2018, which was written by his daughter Rashida Jones, sums up his accomplishments in the credits:
“Over 2,900 songs recorded; over 300 albums recorded; 51 film and television scores; over 1,000 original compositions; 79 Grammy nominations; 27 Grammy awards; 1 of 18 EGOT winners (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony); ‘Thriller’ the best selling album of all time; ‘We Are the World’ the best selling single of all time; $63 million raised for famine relief in Africa; and 7 children”.
In terms of glass ceilings, Jones was a breaker. He was the first African-American to be nominated for an Academy Award for best original song. He also was the first African American to be the musical director and composer of the Academy Awards. His legacy only continues to grow after 7 decades of involvement in the music industry. He is truly a legend.
Herbie Hancock is one of the most decorated musicians out there and is rightfully so. His influence on jazz, R&B, and the overall music community is tremendous. As a child, he was a piano prodigy and was playing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 11. His career launched in 1963 where he released his debut album Takin’ Off.
He also developed a passion for electronics and science, and double-majored in music and electrical engineering at Grinnell College.
Herbie also dabbled in producing and composing soundtracks. He composed the score to Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film ‘Blow Up’, which led to a successful career in feature film and television music.
Countless musicians wanted to collaborate with Herbie and produced tracks that are unforgettable. One significant artist was Joni Mitchell. In fact, he released an entire album in tribute to her. River: The Joni Letters, won a Grammy for Album of the Year.
Herbie continues to be an influential presence in the jazz and musical scene around the US. While maintaining his own career, he also pursues and invests in education. He is currently the Institute Chairman of the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz, the foremost international organization devoted to the development of jazz performance and education worldwide.
Herbie continues to make an impact both inside and outside of the studio. His work will forever be cherished and he will always be respected.