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Quincy Jones: The Man Behind The Music

Legendary music producer Quincy Jones.
Kevin Winter
Getty Images
Legendary music producer Quincy Jones.

This interview was originally broadcast on Nov. 5, 2001.

Quincy Jones is one of those people to whom the word "legendary" is often attached. So it was no surprise when, on May 18, the 80-year-old Jones was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

Jones grew up poor on the south side of Chicago during the Depression, but moved to Seattle when he was 10. It was there, as a teenager, that Jones befriended and began collaborating with Ray Charles — a friendship that would remain strong until Charles' death in 2004.

Although Jones had been pursuing music as a young teenager, it wasn't until 1952 that he took a job as a trumpeter in Lionel Hampton's band, at which point his career officially began.

As he told Fresh Air's Barbara Bogaev in 2001, "I knew that music was my ticket out of this other life that I had, you know, of the thug life and dysfunctional family life."

But Jones never became a noted instrumentalist. What made him famous and wealthy was his work as an arranger, composer, producer and media mogul; his work spans the big bands through bebop, pop, movie soundtracks, television themes and hip-hop. He has arranged or produced recordings for Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Dinah Washington, George Benson, James Ingram, Ice-T and, perhaps most notably, Michael Jackson.

Jones produced Jackson's mega-hit Thriller.

"Thriller was a combination of all my experience as an orchestrator and picking the songs and Michael's — all the talents he ha[d] as a dancer, as a singer, as an amazing entertainer," Jones said. It was like us throwing everything we'd accumulated as experience and putting it all together."

Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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