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SoundTRAX: Quincy Jones and "The Wiz"

The poster for the film "The Wiz" pictures Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Ted Ross, and Nipsey Russell as the characters they portray.
MCA Records
Universal Pictures

SoundTRAX is a dive into notable music from iconic films and TV shows every Monday-Thursday at 8:10.

The one and only Quincy Jones turns 90 today and you'd be hard-pressed to find someone with even a slightly similar career and legacy.

The man's middle name is "Delight," after all.

Seriously. It's Quincy Delight Jones, Jr.

At only 18 he toured as a trumpeter, arranger, and pianist with bandleader and Louisville native Lionel Hampton, and was soon arranging music for the likes of Ray Charles, Count Basie, and Sarah Vaughan.

By 28 Q was vice-president of Mercury Records, becoming the first Black man to do so.

He composed the music for iconic films like In the Heat of the Night and television shows like Sanford and Son, plus he was Frank Sinatra's go-to conductor and producer.

Quincy discovered Will Smith and made him a star with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and helped introduce Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey to the world with The Color Purple.

Oh, and perhaps you've heard of a little album called Thriller? You know, the best-selling album of all time by Michael Jackson.

In fact, it's one of Q's first collaborations with Jackson that I'm featuring today— the film adaptation of the Broadway musical, The Wiz.

This spin on The Wizard of Oz starred Diana Ross as Dorothy, with Jackson playing The Scarecrow. There are also memorable turns by Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, and Nipsey Russell.

In no small part to Quincy's production skills, the soundtrack was far more successful than the movie.

So in honor of the great Quincy Jones' 90th birthday, today's SoundTRAX is "Ease On Down the Road," by Diana Ross and Michael Jackson from The Wiz.

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.