There Is No 13th Note

In a book titled Great Thinkers, which includes essays on people from Plato to Virginia Woolf, there is this sentence in the entry about 18th century economist Adam Smith, the man known for his ideas regarding the division of labor and “the invisible hand,” in the portion regarding his biography:

“In his childhood, he was briefly kidnapped by gypsies.”

That’s it. It goes on from there, describing his becoming an academic philosopher. Nothing about why he was kidnapped, where he was when he was kidnapped or anything about the kidnapping.

Which leads me to think that sometimes we are kidnapped by ideas that briefly take us to all manner of places. . .

Anjanette Comer was an actress who appeared in several TV series mainly in the 1960s and 1970s (e.g., Combat!, Mannix, Bonanza, and various other one-word-title shows), and a few feature films. Although it was announced that she was going to be in the film Funeral in Berlin with Michael Caine, which appeared in 1966, although there were publicity stills showing the actors together, she didn’t appear in the film. Not everything goes as planned. Presumably she wasn’t briefly kidnapped.

One film that she did star in is 1967’s Banning, which also features Robert Wagner, Jill St. John and Guy Stockwell. This is a somewhat complicated movie that has to do with a golf pro, Mike McDermot (played by Wagner), who is unfairly accused of throwing a tournament; he changes his name to Mike Banning and catches up with the guy who had tried to get McDermot to cheat and then accused him of cheating, which led to McDermot becoming Banning, and so Banning, who now has to pay off the mob (?), gets into a tournament, where it is actually a do-or-presumably-die situation. . . .

The poster for the movie proclaims in the sensationalistic verbiage of the day: “The action begins. . .when the auction ends! The truth about the women who go all out. . .when they go for a man!”

Note the absence of golf. Sort of like Comer in Funeral in Berlin.

Banning was nominated for an Academy Award. “The Eyes of Love,” a song performed by Gil Bernal, who also crooned a tune in Blood of Dracula’s Castle (“Count Dracula and his coffin-mate Countess Dracula need young girls to stay alive. . .another 300 years!”), was nominated. There was some serious competition for Best Song that year, such as “The Look of Love” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

Both “The Eyes of Love” and “The Look of Love” (strangely ocular titles) lost to “Talk to the Animals,” music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, performed by Rex Harrison, in Doctor Doolittle.

Which brings us to Quincy Jones, who wrote the music for “The Eyes of Love” (lyrics by Bob Russell).

Jones had another Oscar nomination in 1967, the original score for In Cold Blood.

That one didn’t win, either. (Elmer Bernstein, who’d written scores for movies as wildly different as The Man With the Golden Arm to The Age of Innocence, received the statuette in 1967 for Thoroughly Modern Milly.)

Jones has had a total seven Academy Award nominations (one for being a producer—with Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall–of The Color Purple, the Best Picture nomination that lost to Out of Africa in the 58th ceremony). All of them pulled a Banning.

He was to receive an Oscar in 1994, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

But what is most notable about him is that so far he has been nominated for 80 Grammys—a record number (no pun intended)—and has received 28.

The man who has worked with seemingly everyone–from Count Basie to the King of Pop, from Leslie Gore to Aretha Franklin—isn’t done yet. He is 89.

(Anjanette Comer is 82; Michael Caine is 89, so there’s still a chance before there are funerals elsewhere.)

Jones, who won one of his Grammys for Best Spoken Word Album, Q-The Autobiography of Quincy Jones, based on his (obviously) book for the same name, has just published another book, 12 Notes on Life and Creativity.

One of his recommendations in his book, which he writes includes “the closest I will get to sharing my personal ‘formula’” for success, is, “Instead of chasing fame, lean into your time of obscurity, or position of unexpected greatness, to plan and prepare for your next endeavor.”

Which is a somewhat useful but unusual recommendation, as (1) it comes from a man who is arguably one of the most famous people in music and (2) we are in a period when it seems that no one would acknowledge for a nanosecond that they are amidst “a time of obscurity,” because everyone works very hard at making themselves famous, if only in their own mind.

Which segues, in a sense, to this:

“So, please hear me when I say that you need to work on yourself just as much as you work on your art. As my former music teacher Nadia Boulanger always used to tell me, ‘Quincy, your music can never be more or less than you are as a human being.’ It doesn’t matter how talented you are—or how many number-one hits you get—if you don’t work on who you are first.”

No, it’s not the point that he is recommends that people work on themselves, but that Jones seriously studied: Nadia Boulanger is widely considered one of the most influential teachers of musical composition in the 20th century, and her métier was among classical musicians (her first American pupil was Aaron Copland), not the jazz, pop, rock, swing, R&B, etc. that Jones is associated with. Boulanger also, in effect, gave him the title for the book for as he writes in the foreword, “Nadia Boulanger, my former teacher in Paris, used to tell me, ‘Quincy, there are only twelve notes. Until God gives us thirteen, I want you to know what everybody did with those twelve.’”

Which is why, in a sense, you now know something about Banning, Bernstein, and Q.

Everything and everybody sometimes gets kidnapped. . . .

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