Nobody has had as much influence on modern music as Quincy Jones, as a new documentary attests.
Take a moment to get comfortable and kick-start ye olde memory machine. Once it is up and running, scroll through it and find anyone in living memory who has been more influential in music than Quincy Delight Jones Jr.
His CV includes: Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Lesley Gore, and Michael Jackson, discovering Oprah, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and starting Vibe Magazine.
If you are of a certain age and music was playing in the background then there is a strong chance that you were conceived to a song that Quincy Jones had a hand in. In a career spanning six decades the octogenarian has recorded over 2,900 songs and 300 albums, been nominated for 79 Grammys and won 27 of them. He is one of only 18 people in history to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and a Tony and produced the bestselling album (until August this year) and single of all time.
Watching the new Netflix documentary Quincy, you get the sense that the only things Quincy Jones was ever bad at was marriage and being attracted to black women.
The point of all these stats and the documentary, which was directed by his daughter Rashida Jones, is seemingly to leave people in awe at the scale of Quincy’s life. All those stories about how hard your grandfather worked his knuckles to the bone on a stolen farm are meant to pale in comparison to the endless toil of a man around whom music orbited for decades.
To be honest though, that is all just a bit of projection. The real sense you get from the film once you lift your slack jaw up off the floor is one of concern and love.
Kicking off in the modern day the documentary starts with an awe-struck Dr Dre interviewing Jones about the struggles he had to go through growing up, and down the rabbit hole it goes.
For people born after 1985 it is easy to forget just how long Quincy Jones has been around for. As a result the revelation that Jones had close relatives who were actual slaves is jarring. Living in 2018, the banality of overt racism is always a difficult thing to wrap one’s mind around. Things that would get modern people thrown into jail now, were as common and acceptable as a sunset to Jones right into his middle age. Throw a schizophrenic mother into that mix and it is easy to see why Rashida is rightly impressed with her father.
Interestingly though, Quincy is not just a smoke-blowing parade for the most influential man in music history. In between bits of archive footage of a young Quincy conquering the world or scenes of an older Quincy, the current Mr Jones. This version is old, frail and burdened by a couple of regrets. One gets the impression that Rashida made half the film to bathe the world in her father’s resplendence and the other half as a warning to him, a plea for him to take better care of himself.
While taking a daughter’s care to not overexpose her father’s flaws, one cannot help but notice patterns of infidelity, neglect and implied alcohol that dog Quincy throughout his life. His ex-wives, those that participated, all speak highly enough of him but one does often get the sense that they’re speaking to the daughter of the film’s subject and therefore adding a few dollops of honey to their story.
Ultimately that may be Quincy’s fatal flaw. The director and the subject are too close, which means that Quincy’s highlights and achievements gleam like the sun on polished silver but very little probing into the darker side of Quincy happens. Difficult questions are either wholly avoided or brushed over lightly.
For example, if your first introduction to Quincy Jones was the infamous Vulture interview that came out earlier in the year, then this guy would seem sanitised to the point of being barely recognisable. In that interview, which he later apologised for, Jones, without malice if we’re honest, spoke about how Michael Jackson used to steal music, him knowing who killed John F Kennedy, how shit the Beatles were and Marlon Brando having sex with Marvin Gaye.
In that interview Quincy was an unholstered gun firing off in any and all directions. It was the kind of conversation a man who is too old to be fussed with decorum was with a stranger in a bar.
For all its many pros (there really are a lot of them) Quincy came off like a PG trip down memory lane with your hyper-accomplished dad.
That said, in all the time you have spent reading this, I’m fairly sure that ye olde memory machine still hasn’t found someone who has done more for music than Quincy Jones. That’s because he is the G.O.A.T.*
*That’s the “greatest of all time”, you golden oldies