• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Ray Charles, Steven Spielberg and Bono: An Inside Look at Quincy Jones' Personal Photos

Meeting the Pope
Courtesy of Quincy Jones Archive
Quincy Jones in the middle of Bono and Bob Geldof

The man with the most Grammy nominations in history shares with THR a few of his favorite pictures of famous friends and recalls the wild times they had changing the face of music.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

It's one thing to hold the distinction of producing the planet's biggest album (Thriller) and biggest single ("We Are the World") of all time -- it's another to make history in outer space. And no one on earth can touch Quincy Jones. No, really: His 2008 tune "Walking in Space" was the wake-up call on the Space Shuttle Atlantis. That came 45 years after Jones, now 78, won his first gramophone statuette for his Count Basie arrangement of "I Can't Stop Loving You."

Since then, Grammy hasn't been able to stop loving the man Sinatra nicknamed Q: He has gone on to earn 79 nominations, more than any other artist since the music awards began, and 27 wins. And his personal photos bring it all back to him, from big bands to bebop to teen pop to hip-hop, from his boyhood pal Ray Charles to Paul McCartney to Heavy D.

"It's amazing, the power of photography, isn't it?" Q, who's working on starting the Asian Grammys as chairman of the board of the Asia Academy of Music Arts & Sciences, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It captures that moment just like it was."

Jazz Ambassadors

"That's me [at the top of the stairs] coming off the plane from Ankara, Turkey, on the way to Athens in 1956," says Jones. "We were on a State Department tour with Dizzy Gillespie [bottom]." Gillespie's band was sent to win friends abroad and use jazz to soothe Cold War tensions. On the tour, Jones made an important friend. "I'd just met a guy from the richest family in Turkey, Arif Mardin. I got him a scholarship to Berklee School of Music, and he became one of the biggest arrangers in the business at Atlantic. He did all of Aretha's stuff and launched Norah Jones -- who just recorded my 1967 song 'Foul Owl on the Prowl' from In the Heat of the Night. Forty-five years later, it's all over the Internet."

Seattle Kids Make Good

"Ray Charles inducted me at the American Academy of Achievement in Minneapolis," says Jones. "Ray and I were kids together in Seattle, 14 years old playing nightclubs. We were wild, man, whoo! We'd play pop music in white cardigans and black bow ties at the Seattle Tennis Club, then we'd change our suits and go play rhythm and blues for strippers and comedy teams. I worked with him his whole life." Did that early training help them move easily between musical worlds later on? "Absolutely."

With Michael Jackson and Steven Spielberg

"That's when we were doing the storybook for E.T. in 1981," says Jones. Jackson bonded with the film's alien hero, and Jones and Spielberg with each other. "I met Steven when we were doing Thriller and he was doing E.T. at Laird Studio," says Jones. "That's when we met and fell in love, man. He gave me a viewfinder that directors use, and I gave him a synthesizer. The first E.T. they made, they had to go back and do it again because he looked too much like a brother. That's why he came out the second time with blue eyes. That picture cost $10.9 million. [E.T. star] Drew Barrymore used to stay at our house. I used to hang out with her dad, John Barrymore, in Rome and Copenhagen."

Meeting the Pope (see main picture)

"That was Bono [left], me and Bob Geldof celebrating after we met with Pope John Paul II in 1999 and got $27 billion in debt relief for Mozambique, Bolivia and the Ivory Coast. When you see that guy, you have to kiss his hand. I looked down and saw he had on burgundy wingtips with tan ribbed socks, man. When they took the picture, I had just said, 'The Pope's got some pimp shoes on, man!' It was weird because 10 years earlier, the Vatican had sent me some poems to put to music, to do an album with him, [and I never did it] and I felt real guilty and hoped he wouldn't remember. Bono told the Pope, 'Quincy says you've got some lovely loafers.' "

A Prize and a Ring from Sinatra

"Frank gave me the Scopus Award [for international humanitarianism] from Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1991. He either loved you or rolled over you with a Mack truck in reverse." But Sinatra loved Jones, and the feeling was mutual. "Man, I just loved him to pieces. The first time I met him was 1958. He invited my 55-piece orchestra to play with him for Grace Kelly's benefit at the Monaco Sporting Club. He said, 'Koo-koo, good job, kid,' and I didn't hear from him again until 1964. He called and said, 'Hey, Q' -- the first time anybody called me that -- 'this is Francis. I just heard the record you did with Basie, "Fly Me to the Moon." I like the way you did it: BOP-de-bopbopbop.' It was originally a waltz, and I did it in 4/4 time." So Jones arranged it for Count Basie and Sinatra. "What a guy! Like living on another planet," says Jones. In 1969, the song was played by the Apollo 11 astronauts who landed on the moon. "We never had a contract, just a handshake, from 1964 until he left us in 1998. [Sinatra's daughter] Tina gave me a ring he'd worn for 40 years, with the family crest."