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American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: Q-R (Part 2–Quincy Jones and Richard Rodgers)

Quincy Jones (1933-) and Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) are the two composer-arranger-musicians for the subject of today’s blog. Having a career as a musician is challenging, and sometimes careers branch into other areas than performing. While not visible on stage, these areas are absolutely necessary and essential in the field.

Quincy Jones (also known as ‘Q’ to his colleagues) was born in Chicago, Illinois, but moved with his family to Washington state in 1943.  His father had a wartime job at the Puget Naval Shipyard. Following the war, they moved to Seattle and Quincy studied trumpet and started arranging music. Through classmates and other connections, he received real time experience playing in jazz bands in the community, providing skills that would have been difficult to obtain in a larger city.  He also met and made a lifelong friend, Ray Charles, in Seattle. His talent took him to Berklee School of music in Boston via a scholarship, but his study was interrupted when the road beckoned and Lionel Hampton recruited him for a tour. He developed his arranging skills and earned commissions with arrangements for Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa, and his friend from Seattle, Ray Charles. Not a bad start for a young man. And he never stopped learning; in 1957 he moved to Paris for work and studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen.

Quincy’s work had an enormous influence on the world’s popular music scene. I can only list a few of the artists he successfully collaborated with: Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Billy Eckstein, Ella Fitzgerald, Lesley Gore and Miles Davis. His work with Frank Sinatra was sealed with a handshake; no paper contract necessary.

The talking book collection has Q: the autobiography of Quincy Jones (DB 53304) and an interview with Quincy by Alex Haley at The Playboy Interviews (DB 44110). The NLS Music section also has Songs/Michael Jackson at BRM 34935 and a Ray Charles classic, Born to Lose, DBM 03707, from the Piano by Ear instruction series.

The hills are alive, with the sound of music…I am certain that everyone who just read those words instantly sang the melody that goes with it.  Richard Rodgers was a native New Yorker and partnered with some amazing lyricists, creating musicals that are still in production today.

Born in Queens and growing up in upper Manhattan, Rodgers was exposed to music in the home with sheet music  his mother played on the piano. Almost every home had a piano, and someone learned to play and sing for entertainment. Rodgers’ parents went to Broadway plays and when he was 15, he decided musical theater was his chosen profession. He gained some experience with the production of Varsity Show, an annual production at Columbia University where he was a student.

His two most successful collaborators, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein, required different approaches musically. “Larry [Hart] was … inclined to be cynical,” he said, whereas, “Oscar was more sentimental and so the music had to be more sentimental. It wouldn’t have been natural for Larry to write ‘Oklahoma!’ any more than it would have been natural for Oscar to write ‘Pal Joey.’”

Here is a list of some of the titles we have in the NLS Music collection in braille and audio.

The Sound of Music, vocal selections, (BRM32149)”, The King and I, vocal selections with piano accompaniment (BRM22062), The Sound of Music, piano selections (BRM07005), Oklahoma, piano selections, (BRM23847), South Pacific, piano selections, (BRM24880), Carousel, vocal selections with piano accompaniment, (BRM29008).

In audio, there is “Oklahoma! and Beyond” (DBM00233), “The Dynamics of Collaboration” (DBM00201), and “The Most Unforgettable Composer I Never Met” (DBM00515).

From the talking book collection, Richard Rodgers (DB 48463), and Rodgers and Hammerstein (DB 36269).

If you have a “song in your heart” or are looking for a “thriller,” check out these offerings from the NLS Music Section.

If you would like to download the materials from BARD and need some guidance, or if you would like to explore more materials of the NLS Music Collection and learn about our service, please email us at [email protected], or give us a phone call at 1-800-424-8567, extension 2. We are happy to help and look forward to hearing from you.

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