jones' RICH SONGWRITING LEGACYBy MELINDA NEWMAN
Quincy Jones is known as so many things--producer, conductor, arranger, label owner, artist, musician, film and movie producer--that it's easy to overlook his prowess as a songwriter, even though it's one of the creative hats he's been wearing the longest.
A member of ASCAP since 1955, Jones has scored more than 35 movies, starting with Sidney Lumet's "The Pawnbroker" in 1964 and including "In the Heat of the Night," "In Cold Blood" and "The Color Purple." His work on films has garnered him six Academy Award nominations: "The Eyes of Love," from "Banning," was the first song co-written by an African-American to receive a best original song nod. (Jones's Oscar win is for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1994.)
Jones also authored the themes for such TV series as "Sanford and Son" and "Ironside," while "Hikky Burr," his 1969 collaboration with Bill Cosby, later became the theme song for "The Bill Cosby Show." He also co-wrote such hits as Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)," Barry White's "Secret Garden" and James Ingram and Michael McDonald's "Yah Mo B There."
In recent years, Jones has seen his catalog ripely sampled by such artists as Kanye West, who sampled "P.Y.T." on "Good Life," Royce Da 5'9" ("Main Squeeze" on "Dinner Time") and the late Tupac Shakur ("Body Heat" on "How Do U Want It"). According to Whosampled.com, there are 250 tracks that have sampled Jones' compositions.
One of his most licensed tracks is the bouncy "Soul Bossa Nova," best-known for its usage in Mike Myers' "Austin Powers" trilogy as well as on "Glee."
"He told me once that he wrote that piece in about 10 minutes," says Dan Rosenbaum, VP of marketing and licensing for film and TV at BMG Chrysalis U.S. The publishing company handles more than 2,000 songs in Jones' catalog. He wrote or co-wrote many of them, but his publishing company also includes the copyrights to some tunes he only produced, including Lesley Gore's "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows," the Brothers Johnson's "Strawberry Letter 23" and Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." (Cherry Lane, which is now part of BMG Chrysalis, acquired most of Jones' publishing catalog from Warner/Chappell around 2005, and Universal Music Publishing Group administers many of his movie scores through UMPG's deal with Warner Bros. Pictures and Television.)
"It doesn't get much better than having a legacy catalog where the legacy is still alive," Rosenbaum says. "He's of critical importance to BMG as a company. He's America's ambassador to the world, music-wise."
Similarly, ASCAP president/chairman Paul Williams says, "I cannot imagine the number of people who have been led to ASCAP because he's led them to ASCAP. If you turn to Quincy and say, 'We need you to show up,' he's there. We have to create some new awards because he's won them all."
Indeed, Jones has received virtually every award that ASCAP can bestow upon a songwriter, including the ASCAP Golden Note Award (1982), Henry Mancini Award (1999), ASCAP Pied Piper Award (2008) and Founders Award (2012).
"The breadth of his career is unlike any that exists in the world today," Williams says. "He's always relevant. There's never anything he's done that smacks of nostalgia. He never painted himself into a corner and stayed there."
As a fellow songwriter, Williams says he admires Jones' "inherent sense of melody that dates back to the Great American Songbook. There's inventiveness that is solidly in his jazz roots, a playfulness and adventurousness that goes back to his jazz. I don't think he ever walks past a genre or his roots. He just keeps adding on."
And don't forget his classical training. After touring with Dizzy Gillespie's band as a trumpeter, Jones moved to Paris in the late 1950s to study classical composition with the famed Nadia Boulanger. "She said that the two most talented pupils she ever had were Igor Stravinsky and Quincy," Rosenbaum says. "He comes from a very wide perspective about how he thinks about music. He's been influenced by all genres. He distills them and makes his own thing from it. He's just fascinated by everything. At 80, he wants to know everything and more. I think that [curiosity] plays into his compositions."
"He listens with his heart," Williams adds. "There's an elegance about him as a man."