Hancock, Herbie

Hancock, Herbie (Herbert Jeffrey Hancock), 1940- , American jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader, b. Chicago, Il., Grinnell College (B.S.E., 1960, Honorary D.F.A., 1972). Hancock began studying classical piano at age seven, and appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a young people’s concert when he was 11. On graduation from college, he began playing locally with trumpeter Donald Byrd, who recommended he travel to New York to study composition. His first solo album featured his composition, “Watermelon Man,” which became a major pop hit for Mongo Santamaria in 1962. A year later, he joined Miles Davis’s group that became known as his Second Great Quintet, while continuing to record as a bandleader and sideman. In the ‘70s, Hancock became interested in electronic music and switched to playing electric piano and synthesizer, and formed the fusion group Headhunters in 1973. He scored his biggest fusion success with “Rockit” (1983), propelled by a popular MTV video. He also appeared on V.S.O.P. recordings and performances that reunited him with members of the Davis band of the ‘60s and younger musicians. He has continued to collaborate with other jazz and pop musicians, notably on 2008’s River: The Joni Letters featuring Joni Mitchell. His recordings have won 14 Grammy Awards.

See study by K. Waters (2019).

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