Immensely talented and well-respected musician and composer Herbie Hancock celebrates his 83rd birthday today. A consistent leader in innovation and creativity, Hancock has long been an immeasurable influence on the development of several styles of jazz and rock music. The Chicago-born prodigy issued his first solo album on Blue Note Records in 1962 and has been continuously contributing new compositions and equally impressive recordings ever since.
For Herbie’s birthday today, below is a look back at his long and successful career with a video of him performing live in each decade he’s been active. You’ll find one video from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s as a way to travel through the ever-expanding progression of Hancock’s style.
First is a clip from Stockholm, Sweden in 1967 featuring Hancock on piano with the Miles Davis Quintet comprised of the legendary trumpeter, along with saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams. The video captures their performance of “Agitation,” which they later recorded for the 1965 album E.S.P..
In 1974, Hancock released the landmark fusion LP Head Hunters showcasing a funk-forward stylistic shift. That same year Hancock and The Headhunters band featuring saxophonist Bennie Maupin, bassist Paul Jackson, drummer Mike Clark and percussionist Bill Summers appeared live on the German music program Musikladen where they played the LP’s opening track “Chameleon.”
One of the first singles to garner popular attention that featured the newly introduced technique of “scratching” a record, Hancock’s 1983 single “Rockit” is one of his most well-known recordings. The video below comes from a 1984 performance in London featuring vocalist Bernard Fowler, keyboardist Jeff Bova, drummers J.T. Lewis and Anton Fier, bassist Wayne Braithwaite and DJ Grand Mixer D.ST..
This video is from an appearance in Japan at the Kawaguchi Lake Jazz Festival in 1996, in which Hancock was joined by his All Stars including guitarist John Scofield, drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist Dave Holland, percussionist Don Alias and saxophonist Michael Brecker. Here Hancock leads the ensemble through a take on “Mercy Street.”
This “live” in-studio footage comes from the recording of 2010’s The Imagine Project featuring Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks on the track “Space Captain.” The video also includes bassist Oteil Burbridge, keyboardist Kofi Burbridge, vocalist Mike Mattison and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta.
In 2022, at age 82, Hancock was on the lineup for the mighty Glastonbury Festival in England. The video from his set features Hancock performing “Cantaloupe Island,” which he wrote in the 1960s while a member of the Miles Davis Quintet. The song, now considered a standard, appeared on Hancock’s 1964 album Empyrean Isles and again with a funkier arrangement (as “Cantelope Island”) on 1976’s Secrets.