After returning from a work trip down the coast last night, my lady and I put on Quincy, the new documentary about Quincy Jones, the legendary musician, composer and producer. The man is a powerhouse, a one-man band that exudes a brand of BDE that deserves its own category. Directed by Rashida Jones (my teenage crush) and Alan Hicks, it is an all-consuming narrative that left me delirious in the best kind of way.
To behold his career is to comprehend just how much one man can accomplish in a lifetime. To comprehend that Jones accomplished it as a black man in twentieth-century America is another matter altogether. The man was a beacon of hope for the African-American community, a man who worked tirelessly to confront the impossible and raise the ceiling for the next generation.
Jones has lived a truly privileged life, counting figureheads and seminal celebrities as his closest friends. Titans like Dinah Washington (who took a chance on him), Sidney Poitier, Frank Sinatra (who tapped him to produce It Might As Well Be Swing with Count Basie), Marvin Gaye, Marlon Brando, Oprah Winfrey (who Jones discovered and cast in The Color Purple) and Michael Jackson (who Jones manicured into a superstar following their collaboration on The Wiz).
Born and raised in the south-side ghettos of Chicago in the heart of the depression, Jones endured great hardship from an early age. When his mother was committed to a sanitarium, clinically diagnosed as schizophrenic, he was sent to live with his grandmother at the age of seven. While he never had much of a relationship with her (she spent most of her life in and out of institutions) the lack of maternal love in Jones’ life eventually caught up with him in the late nineteen-eighties.
"I went back inside, deep into myself to reassess my essence as a human being so I didn't re-create any of the old patterns again. I realized that from the time I was a little boy up until that moment I was always running, always trying to fill up that black hole in my soul. I ran because there was nothing behind me to hold me up. I ran because I thought that was all there was to do. I thought that to stay in one place meant to die.”
Jones was a man that lived in the moment, a divine individualist that continually found his way to the center of the zeitgeist. He threw himself into every new pursuit with an infectious zest and always managed to put his unique mark on it. The octogenarian is as relevant as ever in the documentary, deftly operating an iPhone while balancing a MacBook on his lap while dictating to his millennial assistants. The man is unstoppable.
What was most endearing above all was that Jones has continually found success by being the consummate gentlemen, a spiritual figure that puts love and affirmation before all else. It reminds me of a tender scene showing an eighty-two year-old Jones attempting to work out with a private trainer months after suffering a stroke. Unable to complete the requisite tasks he calmly accepts the facts and endeavours to instigate a daily regimen to take his body back.
According to the living legend, water and music are the two things we can’t do without. Add love and acceptance to the mix and I’d say we’re cooking with gasoline.