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Music

The best advice Quincy Jones ever received

Quincy Jones has been at the centre of popular music for 70 years. A hero of pop, jazz, and everything in between, it’s remarkable that he is still going strong at the ripe age of 89, with him recently appearing on Canadian musician The Weeknd’s latest album Dawn FM. Jones has done it all across his storied career, ranging from working with Michael Jackson to conducting the chorus of icons in 1985’s ‘We Are The World’.  

Jones really hit the big time in the 1970s and ’80s, but his successful career extends back to the early ’50s when music was vastly different from some of the modern pop songs that he’d go on to bring to life. 

Jones initially made his way into the music industry as a jazz trumpeter, playing in bands headed by the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Harold Arlen, and soon he rose to the role of musical director. His natural ability to lead musicians was clear for all to see, and in 1961, he landed the job as vice-president of Mercury Records, making history as one of the first Black record executives in America. 

Although he was adept at the role, it wasn’t what he wanted to do, so he segued seamlessly into composing film scores, with two of his most iconic being The Italian Job and In the Heat of the Night.

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It was through his work in film scores that Jones reaffirmed himself as one of the hottest arrangers and bandleaders out there, collaborating with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald. Notably, Jones would find himself working with Sinatra for the rest of the crooner’s life, and it was a golden partnership. After making his name as a genius arranger, Jones then moonlighted as a producer, working with Leslie Gore to create pop hits such as ‘It’s My Party’ and ‘You Don’t Own Me’. 

By the early ’70s, Jones had done it all, but ironically, the best was still to come. Electing to record his own solo records, Jones wished to meld the classical orchestration and jazz roots of his past with the modern sounds of soul, funk, and R&B, which he achieved with verve. Then, by the time his first collaboration with Michael Jackson rolled around, 1979’s Off the Wall, Jones had long been established as the hottest mind in American music.

Given that he is so revered, Jones’ thoughts on anything and everything are to be listened to attentively, as his incredible wealth of experience gives him a form of wisdom that is very rare. In 2019, when sitting down with Spotify for Artists, Jones shared the best piece of advice he ever got, and it’s something we could all do with hearing. He said: “The best advice I ever got was from Nadia Boulanger in 1957. She said, ‘Your music will never be more or less than you are a human being’, so I decided to work on the human being. I’m discovering a lot of things about myself, you know, and I’m trying now for the last two years to get all of the negative thoughts out of my body. Grudges, no more anger, it’s a waste of time.”

Adding: “And Mark Twain’s words just overwhelm me: ‘Anger is an acid which does more harm to the vessel in which it’s stored than anything on which it’s poured.’ Isn’t it amazing to get to 85 to figure that out? It’s ridiculous but you learn it from mistakes.”

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