At 84-years-old Quincy Jones’ star is far from fading.
It’s not easy to catch Jones not busy performing, producing or arranging. Busy is what his life has been all about
In town for this weekend’s Kennedy Center Honors, he stopped by to appear on stage at the Smithsonian’s African-American Museum of History and Culture.
Jones said he's not ready to slow down as he continues living out his dream.
“I had only one fear in my life and that was not being prepared for a great opportunity, so I made sure I always had my stuff together,” he said. “Back then they called it ‘paying your dues.’ I paid my dues.
Jones was born in Chicago during the Depression before his family moved to Bremerton, Washington, where his father found work during the World War II. He said his dad had a strong work ethic.
“Once the task has just begun, never leave it ‘til it’s done,” his father used to say. “Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.
Mastering music nurtured his spirit after he lost his mother.
“They took her away in a straightjacket for dementia precox when I was 7 years old,” he said.
“I said if I don't have a mother I'm going to let music be my mother, and it never let me down,” he said. “Never.”
He said he never thought about limits for a black kid in the 1930s and ‘40s.
“I just kept going,” he said.
He said he just wanted to be the best at whatever he did, even as a shoeshine boy at 11.
“I wanted to be the best shoeshine dude that ever lived,” he said.
Jones said he started his music career before finishing high school.
“When i was 15, Lionel Hampton asked me to join his band,” Jones said. “He saw my arrangements and he asked me to join his band.”
When Hampton learned Jones was only 15, “He said, ‘Get off this bus. Go get your education. I'll get back to you later,’” Jones said. “Oh I was so hurt.”
“I had a scholarship to Seattle University, but the music class was very Presbyterian, and I didn't like it, so I got a scholarship to Schillinger House, which is Berklee School of Music now,” he said.
A few years later, Hampton did come calling again.
“Three years later when I was in Boston, they called me and wanted me to come join the band in New York,” Jones said. “It was the best thing that happened to me.”
It launched a career making him a star as a musician, composer, arranger and conductor, touching the lives of so many others.