The man with the knack for jazz and instrumental innovations started playing piano when he was seven. Classically trained, Herbie Hancock hooked up with Blue Note Records in New York City after graduating from Iowa’s Grinnell College. His first solo album was released in 1963 and garnered the attention of Miles Davis. Hancock joined the legend’s band and quickly developed a fondness for funk.
Not long after that, Herbie went on to form his own group called The Headhunters that played to the genres of rock, jazz and funk in what is now referred to as fusion. The group’s self-titled album, on which Hancock incorporated sounds from a synthesizer, turned into the best-selling jazz offering of all time. Herbie Hancock continued to work with electronica, coming up with “Future Shock” in 1983 for which the album’s single called “Rock It” won best R&B instrumental Grammy.
Nearly a decade later, Hancock played around with West African rhythms and made a disc dubbed “Dis is Da Drum.”
Now chairman of the global Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and founder of The International Committee of Artists for Peace, Herbie Hancock is an honorary UNESCO goodwill ambassador. He also holds court as the creative jazz force for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
This legendary 73-year-old, also known as the Star Fox, has his memoirs due to be published in 2014, a volume for which Herbie Hancock hopes “will not only appeal to jazz fans.” No worries there.
As to his most recent award as one of five Kennedy Center Honors honorees, the humble Herbie Hancock said on his site, “This is a most coveted award. To realize that my name will be among those whose outstanding work in the performing arts I most admire is very humbling. I only hope that my being selected will be an encouragement to young people in not only the genre of jazz, but in all the arts who strive for excellence in order to better serve the uplifting of the human spirit.”
Watch all the honorees on “The 36th Annual Kennedy Center Honors” airing Sunday, December 29th from 9:00-11:00 PM PT on CBS.
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Los Angeles freelance travel writer Jane Lasky, contributes to publications such as Travel + Leisure, Vogue and Esquire. Her weekly sojourning column ran in 40 newspapers for 20 years. Jane is anything but an accidental tourist. Check out her articles on Examiner.com.