Quincy Jones started his career as a jazz and be-bop musician, playing every brass instrument he could get his hands on, and with the very best: Count Basie, Dinah Washington, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie.
Along the way he became a publisher, media magnate, composer and orchestral conductor who arranged songs for Frank Sinatra: his is the definitive version of Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon, which became the first record played by Buzz Aldrin on the moon itself! Plus, he produced three Michael Jackson albums – including Thriller, still the bestselling album ever recorded by an individual artist.
I was inspired to read that he had creative disagreements with the late Michael Jackson on their first collaboration, Off the Wall. While they were recording it, “Michael sent me a note saying ‘Quincy, please, please take the strings off the beginning of ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ because it’s messing up my groove.’ You know the strings, right?” He hums the opening few bars. “The strings are what made it work! It all went together, my background and his singing.”
The chart success of Off the Wall saw Jones invited back to produce a second Jackson album. The result was Thriller, which went on to sell an estimated 100 million copies.
He and Jackson also worked together on the “We Are the World” single, but parted ways after Bad. “He thought I was getting too old for the business because Bad didn’t sell 100 million. I said, ‘Michael, you can’t get used to 50, 60 million albums, come on man. You can’t tell me that 30 million is a bomb!’ Michael said: ‘Quincy is so old he doesn’t know that rap is dead’ – and this was 1987!”
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