Quincy Jones Reflects on His Life’s Work

Music Impresario Visits Howard University to Sign and Discuss His New Book Before Overflow Crowd

Quincy Jones said he was a “baby gangster” when he first discovered the piano. God’s whispers led him to become a musician, foregoing aspirations of ruling the streets.

“We are terminals for God’s work,” Jones told a multigenerational crowd at the Howard University Bookstore on Tuesday. The music impresario visited the bookstore for a signing and discussion of his newly released book, “The Complete Quincy Jones: My Journey and Passions.”

“When you’re a jazz musician, you don’t think you’re going to get past 35,” said Jones, now 75 years old.

Born Quincy Delight Jones Jr. on March 14, 1933, he discovered the piano at age 11 and had developed the ability to play five brass instruments by the age of 15.

Starting his career as jazz trumpeter, he ultimately became an all-around media mogul. His career has spanned more than 40 years. He has worn many hats in the media and entertainment industry. Jones has been a conductor, record producer, musical arranger, film composer, magazine publisher and television producer. He has been highly recognized for his achievements garnering 79 Grammy award nominations, 27 Grammys and a Grammy Legend award.

Jones drew a standing-room-only crowd to Howard’s Bookstore that included the young and not-so-young. Contemporary R&B artist Raphael Saadiq was among the attendees.

“I am inspired by him, because of his musicianship,” Saadiq said. “First as a musician myself, I am inspired by real musicianship and then to come from jazz to producing just numerous works like ‘Off the Wall’ with Michael Jackson.”

Jones’ new book is 150 pages packed with letters, sheet music, notes and other memorabilia that reflect his life and career.

“When you see 75 years of your life packaged in a book of 150 pages, so that’s two pages a year and I know I was busier than that,” Jones said.

Jones credits his younger brother with saving the various mementos he was able to replicate for the book.

“I would never thought of holding all this stuff,” Jones said. “My baby brother, who passed in 1998, was my heart and he saved everything I ever did.”

Jones also commented on Barack Obama’s historic presidential win. “You know who is the happiest person in the world right now,” he said. “I never thought I would see this. He is the coolest president we ever had. He gets it.”

He also spoke about the need for another American first: a Secretary of the Arts. “Everywhere in the world there is a minister of culture, and American music is the most imitated music especially black music,” Jones said.

Soncere, an aspiring rap artist who slipped Jones his demo while shaking his hand, was honored by his visit.

“He is a legend, and I was definitely humbled to be in his presence,” Soncere said, “but you definitely have to take advantage of every opportunity.”