28 Days of Literary Blackness with VSB | Day 27: Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones by Quincy Jones

Illustration for article titled 28 Days of Literary Blackness with VSB | Day 27: Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones by Quincy Jones
Image: Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones (Doubleday Publishing)

Publisher Synopsis (via B&N): Musician, composer, producer, arranger and pioneering entrepreneur Quincy Jones has lived large and worked for five decades alongside the superstars of music and entertainmentincluding Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Ray Charles, Will Smith and dozens of others. Q is his glittering and moving life story, told with the style, passion, and no-holds-barred honesty that are his trademarks.


Quincy Jones grew up poor on the mean streets of Chicago’s South Side, brushing against the law and feeling the pain of his mother’s descent into madness. But when his father moved the family west to Seattle, he took up the trumpet and was literally saved by music. A prodigy, he played backup for Billie Holiday and toured the world with the Lionel Hampton Band before leaving his teens. Soon, though, he found his true calling, inaugurating a career whose highlights have included arranging albums for Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan and Count Basie; composing the scores of such films as The Pawnbroker, In Cold Blood, In the Heat of the Night and The Color Purple, and the theme songs for the television shows Ironside, Sanford and Son and The Cosby Show; producing the bestselling album of all time, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and the bestselling single “We Are the World”; and producing and arranging his own highly praised albums, including the Grammy Award—winning Back on the Block, a striking blend of jazz, African, urban, gospel and hip-hop. His musical achievements, in a career that spans every style of American popular music, have yielded an incredible seventy-seven Grammy nominations, and are matched by his record as a pioneering music executive, film and television producer, tireless social activist and business entrepreneur–one of the most successful black business figures in America. This string of unbroken triumphs in the entertainment industry has been shadowed by a turbulent personal life, a story he shares with eloquence and candor.

Q is an impressive self-portrait by one of the master makers of American culture, a complex, many-faceted man with far more than his share of talents and an unparalleled vision, as well as some entirely human flaws. It also features vivid testimony from key witnesses to his journey–family, friends, and musical and business associates. His life encompasses an astonishing cast of show business giants, and provides the raw material for one of the great African American success stories of this century.

If you read that synopsis then you can understand why this book is highlighted, no problem. I’m a music head...all of it. Quincy seems to have been present for and gotten to work with and know damn near everybody in the entire ass music business over the course of his life. He details it all in this book which is a page turner like a mug. He has great stories about Michael Jackson and the makings of his seminal albums, his friendship with Sinatra, etc. And Miles and and, basically everybody. Quincy seems to have lived the kind of life you’d want to live if you were a musician.

Since I read this book, probably in the early 2000s, I’ve often gone back to read it for motivation and for optimism, because of how much Quincy has done and how he approached life. He had some issues being a father it seems, and he doesn’t shy away from that in his book. Or in last year’s Netflix documentary, Quincy. But as I said, as somebody with an interest in art, and art for a living, I read his book as a primer on making the absolute most of out life and of being in the right places at the right time to optimize that life. Quincy Jones truly did it all, and I enjoyed reading every minute of it.

Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones (2001) by Quincy Jones

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.



The greatness of this autobiography is that like it’s subject it is brutally honest to a fault. There is no meandering anywhere through out it. I can’t imagine the catharsis Q , his family & friends must have felt after making this book. Like Malcolm X’s autobiography I highly recommend that everyone read this book.