Black Music and Comedy: Composers, Artists Behind Major Sitcoms

They make us laugh, cry and even phone a friend with their comedy but, sitcoms like ‘Girlfriends,’ ‘The Parkers,’ The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’, ‘Martin,’ The Wayans Brothers, Jamie Foxx Show and ‘The Game’ are also jam packed with black music. Beyond traditionally placed music from artists including Gerald Levert, Musiq Soulchild, Donnie McClurkin and Cheryl Lynn, black musicians and composers including Quincy Jones III and Kurt Farquhar are helping to paint the stories we watch on a number of sitcoms.

In addition to acclaimed work on the documentary ‘Beef,’ which at one point aired on BET as a series, Quincy Jones III, spent the early part of his career behind the six season running comedy ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-air’. Starring Will Smith, Tatyana Ali, and Alfonso Ribeiro, ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ is mostly remembered for its infamous characters Will, Ashley, Carlton and Hillary, among others. But without the music behind the hilarious scenes, including Ashley, Carlton and Will’s never ending adventures, ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ would not have become the pop culture icon it has over the years.

Teaming with Will Smith, Quincy Jones III (son of recent Apollo Hall of Fame inductee and icon behind Michael Jackson and The Color Purple, Quincy Jones), composed music for the show including its famous theme song. Jones later contributed, as a composer, to both ‘The PJ’s’ and the LL Cool J featured sitcom ‘In The House’. Contrary to what some might believe, Quincy Jones III created his own business and success after living in Sweden for much of his childhood (away from the cameras and success of his father). Nonetheless, Jones credits his multi-Grammy Award winning father’s ambition and multi-tasking ability for his decision to take his musicianship to the small screen, stating: “He was definitely an influence, because he did publishing, he did movie scoring, he did records, and other business ventures. And I think it showed me how to be versatile and how to think big by example. I started doing movie scoring and record producing right out the gate, and a lot of times it takes you, like, five to ten years to actually get paid work in the production side of things. So if you can do film and television scoring, which is more like a regular job, you get paid whether the record sells or not.”

Like Jones, musician/composer Kurt Farquhar took his musicianship to Hollywood. However, Farquhar, recognized by songwriters association BMI, has a seemingly endless mirage of credits. Amongst Farquhar’s credits are composing work for ‘Soul Food (the series),’ ‘Girlfriends,’ ‘The Parkers’, ‘Thea,’ ‘Sister Sister,’ ‘Sinbad,’ ‘Moesha,’ ‘Second Time Around,’ ‘All of Us,’ ‘Lincoln Heights,’ and ‘The Game’.

For Farquhar, who attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and Eastern Illinois University, there is nothing like developing a storyline with music. In a 2004 interview, Farquhar was quoted stating “My method of work is less technical than soulful; I write from my soul and from the heart of the characters on screen.” He later went on to say, “To see the characters develop and to create the music that grows with them over the years is rewarding.”