A Close Look at 'Q'

With everything he did behind the scenes to ensure The Color of Purple's success, people sometimes forget that Quincy also made a key contribution with his score for the picture. In fact, Quincy almost forgot to do it himself, as "I had so much to do that I almost completely forgot that we needed some music. Then I suddenly realized we needed to do an hour-and-54-minute score—in eight weeks. By the time we got down to 'Miss Celie's Blues,' which was a really strong dramatic moment, [co-writer] Rod Temperton—with whom I've been collaborating for more than twenty years—and I were running out of steam, and we had to record something the next day. So we called up Lionel Richie, who had offered earlier to finish up the lyrics if need be. And then it just flowed. It's funny, too, because Alice Walker said she didn't believe that men had written a song like that. I was also positive that we had to get [singer] Tata Vega and [blues harmonica player] Sonny Terry on it to convey the real feel."

The Color Purple is yet another milestone that wouldn't have come out the way it did if Quincy had taken no for an answer. He'd been told in no uncertain terms that "'Every idiot in town wants Steven Spielberg. He's a $5.5 million director.' Steven did it for $84,000. You can't have a $14 million budget and pay a director $5.5 million. They kept saying it would only do $30 million. It did $220 million." And as a Tony-winning Broadway musical, its status as an iconic tale of twentieth-century African-American life keeps growing. "It's a continuum," Quincy believes. "It's passed, I think, the human element. It's total divinity."

"The thing about Quincy is that he completely exudes and manifests love," Oprah Winfrey has observed. "Love in his work, love in his relationships, and love in all of his experiences. And so when you are listening to music that he has either created or is orchestrating or is conducting, or you are watching a film that he was a part of the production of, or you're reading a magazine that he was the publisher of, you can feel the love. That is the essence of all of the work that he does.

"I started a special journal when I went on The Color Purple. In my entire life, I've never wanted anything more than to be in that movie, and won't want anything that much any more, because I never want to have to desperately want something that badly again. He was the catalyst for that; he 'discovered' me. I wrote one day, 'I've never had this feeling before. Every time I see Quincy Jones, my whole countenance lights up. He is the light.' Being around him makes you feel like he is the light, mainly because there is not a person, not a crew member, not a janitor, not a photographer, not a person passing in the airport, that he doesn't treat as though they are the best friend in his life.

"There is no division in his heart about people whatsoever, and so no matter who you are, when you are around him you feel like you're the most special person to him. That is the first time I'd ever been around anybody like that, not to mention somebody who's famous, or has the reputation that he had.

"I don't know of anybody who has the kind of drive, passion, and love for the work that he does. I've never quite experienced anybody for whom whatever project they're undertaking, that there is 100% of the essence of him in it, no matter what the project is."

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