- NAME: Herbie Hancock
- OCCUPATION: Songwriter, Pianist
- BIRTH DATE: April 12, 1940 (Age: 73)
- Did You Know?: Herbie Hancock's 1962 debut record, Takin' Off, was the first album on the Blue Note roster to feature all original tunes.
- Did You Know?: Herbie Hancock composed music for the animated Bill Cosby series Fat Albert and released a gorgeous, accompanying album, Fat Albert Rotunda.
- Did You Know?: Herbie Hancock's 2008 Grammy Award win for album of the year, for River: The Joni Letters, marked the first time in more than four decades that the award went to a jazz musician.
- Did You Know?: Herbie Hancock not only created a recording tribute to Joni Mitchell, he worked with the singer-songwriter on an album honoring George Gershwin.
- EDUCATION: Grinnell College, Hyde Park High School
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Chicago, Illinois
- Full Name: Herbert Jeffrey Hancock
- AKA: Herbert Hancock
- AKA: Herbie Hancock
- ZODIAC SIGN: Aries
Best Known For
Herbie Hancock is an award-winning jazz composer and musician with a rich, stylistically diverse canon of songs that include "Maiden Voyage" and "Rockit."
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Born on April 12, 1940, in Chicago, Illinois, piano great Herbie Hancock worked with Donald Byrd and Miles Davis while developing his own jazz recording career, beginning with his debut album, Takin' Off. Hancock explored a number of genres, as seen on albums like Mwandishi and Head Hunters, and had a 1980s hit with the mix-fest "Rockit." A film composer as well, he has won an Academy Award and many Grammy Awards.
"The thing that keeps jazz alive, even if it's under the radar, is that it is so free and so open to not only lend its influence to other genres, but to borrow and be influenced by other genres. That's the way it breathes."
"I showed interest in science even before I showed interest in music when I was a kid. My first major in college, I chose electrical engineering because I was afraid of choosing music for practical purposes."
"With Miles [Davis] I developed from kind of a generally all-round musician to finding a direction for myself. It was a great education."
"I have never minded moving back and forth. I suppose I could make a kind of jazz-based pop music, the way some musicians do, but I choose to keep the two separate. I pursue one objective, and when it reaches a logical conclusion, I pursue another."
"I realized that if I perceive myself as a musician, somehow there's an invisible barrier between myself and people who aren't musicians. But if I define myself as a human being, all the barriers disappear."
"I think I will always be involved with youth-oriented music because I haven't forgotten that I was young once. The seeds of youth will stay alive as long as you don't kill them."
"I was overwhelmed with emotion and, frankly, speechless when I was told that I was selected as a Kennedy Center Honoree."
"The idea of being judgmental to me is not something I aspire to. The beauty of jazz is that, at its best, it's nonjudgmental."
Born on April 12, 1940, in Chicago, Illinois, Herbert Jeffrey Hancock began studying piano when he was 7 years old. A few years later, as a tween, he was playing Mozart with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He began to enjoy jazz compositions during his high school years and, upon entering Grinnell College in 1956, decided to focus on electrical engineering. The major initially seemed more practical and allowed him to invest in his passion for technology. Yet Hancock decided to switch over to music composition and formed his own group, later moving to New York to play with trumpeter Donald Byrd.
Herbie Hancock landed a record deal with Blue Note and released his debut album as the head of a band, Takin' Off, which garnered fame as the first album on the Blue Note roster to feature all newly composed tunes, like the seminal "Watermelon Man." While continuing to record and pen future classics like "Cantaloupe Island" and "Maiden Voyage," Hancock played with Miles Davis. Starting in 1963, he would be part of the bandleader's group for several years, with the two influencing each other's sound and Davis introducing Hancock to the electric piano.
Over the ensuing years, via the release of dozens of albums, Hancock established a reputation as an outstanding composer who feels free to explore genres outside of traditional jazz, ranging from fusion to R&B to hip-hop. The sonically radical, mystical and revered Mwandishi (1970) was followed a bit later by the funk-based, platinum-certified Head Hunters (1973); the album featured "Chameleon" and another version of "Watermelon Man," whose sexy grooves would later be sampled in hip-hop/reggae circles. 1977's "Sunlight" featured rejuvenating soul with Hancock himself on vocoder vocals.
He continued playing in different forms, including stints with the V.S.O.P. quintet that reunited members of Davis' band. 1983's Future Shock featured the award-winning, blipped-out single "Rockit," known for its MTV coolness.
The following decades saw more releases on different labels, including Dis Is Da Drum (1994), Gershwin's World (1998), honoring George Gershwin's 100th birthday, and the electronica-oriented Future 2 Future (2001). 2010's The Imagine Project saw the composer working with an international cast that included Céu, Pink, Seal and Juanes.
Hancock has also provided scores to a number of TV and film projects. He penned music for Bill Cosby's Fat Albert cartoon and an accompanying album as well as for films like Death Wish (1974), A Soldier's Story (1984) and Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (1986). He won an Academy Award for the score to 'Round Midnight (1986), co-starring in the project as well.
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