Almost one year ago, we watched the documentary “Quincy” while waiting in Reykjavik for our connection flight from Düsseldorf to Chicago.

It’s about the life of Quincy Jones. How he came to be the successful musician, arranger and producer.

With the documentary came so many quotes (most of them by Quincy, but also Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra) that I absolutely love and feel they are super inspiring. So here I list them for you 🙂

“To know where you came from makes it easier for you to go where you’re going.”

“Your music can never be more or less that you are as a human being.”

“The first thing is to be humble with your creativity and graceful with your success.”

“Keep your score paper and pen right near you, ’cause if you’re not up, God will take it down the street to Mancini.”
(about writing at night and that the muses come out at night)

“If my mother could go crazy, who couldn’t?”
(about the senselessness he felt when he was a kid growing up in the ghetto in Chicago)

“One night, I broke into the armory. In the room, there was an old upright piano. I tinkled on it for a moment and I knew this was it for me, forever.”
(about discovering music at the age of 11)

“Just that idea, to see black men that were dignified and proud. I said ‘That’s what I want to be. I want to be in that family, I’d do anything to be in that family.'”
(about the musicians Quincy met when he started to play music)

“I’m Quincy Jones and I play trumpet, and I want to write.”
(Ray Charles on first meeting Quincy Jones)

“Every music has it’s own soul, Quincy. It doesn’t matter which style it is, just be true to it.”
(Ray Charles)

“I had no control over where I lived, no control over my sick mother. I couldn’t control the angry whites who still called me ‘nigger’ when they caught me alone on the street. But music was one thing I could control. It was the one thing that offered me my freedom.”

“You need confidence, sure […] I’m not denying that. But […] an ego is usually just […] overdressed insecurity. I think you have to dream so big, that you can’t get an ego. ‘Cause you’ll never fulfill all those dreams. There’s always more to come and learn.”

“Once a task has just begun,
never leave it ’till it’s done.
Be the labor great or small,
do it well or not at all.”
(Quincy quotes his Dad Quincy Delight Jones, Sr.)

“I don’t think you can write, can create anything without feeling right with the truth.”

“Not one drop of my self-worth depends on your acceptance of me.”
(Quincy Jones and Ray Charles back in the 40’s)

“Learn to deal with the valleys, Quincy. The hills will take care of themselves.”
(Count Basie)

“I want you to be one of the people that helped de-categorize American music.”
(Duke Ellington to Quincy Jones)

“I came up in that school of, like, all kind, every kind of music. There’s just two kinds, bad and good.”

“Quincy, there are only 12 notes […] and you should really investigate what everybody did with these 12 notes.”
(Nadia Boulanger)

“I’d rather say ‘I’m sorry I did’ than ‘I wish I had’.”

“My feeling is always leave at least 20 or 30 percent of room for the Lord to walk through the room. Because […] then you’re leaving room for the magic and […] records are about capturing magic, real magic moments […] at that time, and capturing them on tape. […] And love is the other word, too. When the love is in the studio, because that contributes more to magic in the studio that anything else.”
(about recording music)

“Bigotry is a terrible disease. […] I began to make noise about it. I said ‘If they all have to live on the other side of town, then you don’t need me.”
(Frank Sinatra on how he changed the whole racial situation in Las Vegas in 1964)

“In all the years working together, just like with Ray Charles, we never once had a contract. Just a handshake.”
(on working with Sinatra)

“In order for music to grow, the critics must stop categorizing and let the musicians get involved in all different facets of music. We will die if we get stuck in one area of music.”

“You realize […] the true essence of time. And you tell your friends you love them now. Not tomorrow or next week. Let them feel your love.”

“You get inspired by so many things and you never stop. […] You think you can get it all in and that’s the dangerous part.”

“You know, this is not about race. This is about humanity. You know, you didn’t have to go to Mars to make E.T..”
(Quincy to Steven Spielberg to convince him to direct ‘The Color Purple’)

“You got to let go all of the past, […] bring the good parts forward, forget about the negative stuff, and go on. Because whenever you get hung up and locked into the past, you’re robbing yourself of the present and definitely the future.”

“You only live 26,000 days […] I’m gonna wear all of them out. And if I get to 80, that’ll be 29,000. I’m gonna wear them all out, you know? They’re gonna know we came through here.”
(to Oprah Winfrey in her show)

“It’s a journey, coming up in this fucking country, man. Chicago… No joke. I didn’t see anybody white until I was 11 years old.”

“And the kids, the kids’ minds, most of them, are not into that shit, ’cause you have to be taught how to hate. That’s not natural, to hate somebody because of their skin. You don’t have nothing to do with that. So how people can judge somebody by the color of their skin is fucked up, you know?”

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