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Music

Revisit Quincy Jones' tribute to Aretha Franklin and Roberta Flack

@TylerGolsen

Quincy Jones had his finger on the pulse of popular music for seven decades. He still does, considering how he’s still active and recently appeared on The Weeknd’s Dawn FM. From collaborations with Michael Jackson to conducting the orchestra of voices on ‘We Are The World’, Jones was at the forefront of 1980s pop, but his expertise extends as far back as the early 1950s.

Initially employed as a jazz trumpeter, Jones managed to play in bands headed by Dizzy Gillespie and Harold Arlen, ascending to the role of musical director. Through his ability to lead musicians, Jones landed a job as vice-president of Mercury Records in 1961, becoming one of the first black record executives in America. But Jones wasn’t content with the business side of music, and he began composing scores for films like In the Heat of the Night and The Italian Job.

Through his film work, Jones once again became an in-demand arranger and bandleader, lending his talents to the likes of Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra, with whom Jones continued to collaborate with for the rest of Sinatra’s life. Through his arranging, Jones eventually ascended to the role of producer, including establishing a collaboration with Leslie Gore on hits like ‘It’s My Part’ and ‘You Don’t Own Me’. 

This is all to say that Jones had a tremendous amount of clout by the time he reached the ‘70s. 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. By taking on modern covers, Jones sought to bridge his 20 years of musical experience on the 1973 album You’ve Got It Bad Girl.

Featuring contemporary reimaginings of popular songs like The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Summer in the City’, along with some of his own well-known compositions like the theme to Sanford and Son, You’ve Got It Bad Girl is an eclectic amalgamation of past and present. On the album’s third track, Jones paid tribute to two of the biggest names in soul music: Aretha Franklin and Roberta Flack.

Entitled ‘Tribute to A.F.-RO’, the song is a medley of Franklin’s ‘Day Dreaming’ from 1972’s Young, Gifted, and Black and Flack’s cover of ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’, which sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks that same year. Jones throws in his own vocals, sometimes sung and sometimes presented in spoken word, along with jazz-inflected arrangements featuring light flute work, samba rhythms, and Jones’ own trumpet playing.

The dreamy seven-minute track combines some of the best of both Franklin’s brassy style and Flack’s otherworldly melodic touches. Combined with Jones’ own signature arrangements, ‘Tribute to A.F.-RO’ remains a singular track almost 50 years after its initial release, and is a more-than fitting ode to two of the greatest singers of all time.

Check out ‘Tribute to A.F.-RO’ down below.