Herbie Hancock was born on April 12, 1940, in Chicago Illinois into a musical family. His father was a government meat inspector and mother was a secretary. Herbie began studying piano at the age of 7, he started his education with classical music. On February 5, 1952, along with Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he played the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.26 in D Major, K. 537 (Coronation), at the time he was only 11.
Hancock was influenced by Clare Fischer’s arrangements for the HI-Los and Robert Farnon’s orchestral arrangements of standard popular songs. He graduated from Grinnell College in 1960, by that time he was already performing with Coleman Hawkins and Donald Byrd, in Chicago Jazz clubs. In 1963, Hancock received considerable attention when Byrd invited him to join his quintet in New York. He landed on a record deal with Blue Note, where he released his debut album as the head of the band, Takin’ Off. The seminal Watermelon Man, was an original tune with a strong gospel influence through which Hancock got the attention he deserved. His piano style had evolved with time into a high personal blend of blues and exquisite tone. He joined Miles Davis Quintet in May, 1963. Along with working with Davis’s quintet, Hancock composed several tunes which have become jazz standards, including, Dolphin Dance, Maiden Voyage, Cantaloupe Island, The Socerer and Speak Like a Child.
Hancock started with a sextet, his first venture into electronic music. This also included elements of rock, jazz, African and Indian music. This sextet was influenced by Davis’s early fusion recordings. Through this Hancock got more into electronic music and instruments, playing the Fender-Rhodes piano through a variety of signal processors such as wa-wa and fuzz pedals. ‘Headhunters’ was the first on which Hancock used a synthesizer in 1973. It became the largest selling jazz album in history.
He recreated Miles band without Miles with V.S.O.P Quintet. Hancock’s single Rock it won the Grammy for best R&B Instrument whereas Future Shock was a pioneering electronic work, which was also a hit on both R&B and dance charts. In 1986, after his MTV hit in 1983, Hancock launched an exciting partnership with Gambian Kora virtuoso Foday Musa Suso to make album Jazz Africa. He also did film scores, played festivals and did tours with the Marsalis Brothers, George Benson and Michael Brecke among others. Hancock left Columbia in 1988, and together with Wallace Roney recorded A Tribute to Miles, which was released in 1994. They won a Grammy for best group album. His return to acid jazz was with the release of Dis Is da Drum, in 1994, whose aim was to raise awareness and funds for the AIDS epidemic in relation to the African community. This album was said to be “Album of the Year” by the Time Magazine. Hancock’s amazement with electronic music and jazz continued in 2001s Future 2 Future but he didn’t leave the contemporary jazz with 2005s Possibilities.
In 2010, Herbie Hancock released The Imagine Project, in the same year he received an Alumni Award from his alma mater. Kennedy Center Honors award was given to him for the achievement in performing arts with artists like Snoop Dogg and Mixmaster Mike. Currently, he appeared on the 5th Flying Lotus studio album ‘You’re Dead’ which was released in October 2014.