Herbert Jeffrey “Herbie” Hancock (born April 12, 1940) is an American pianist, keyboardist, bandleader, composer and actor. Starting his career with Donald Byrd, he shortly thereafter joined the Miles Davis Quintet where Hancock helped to redefine the role of a jazz rhythm section and was one of the primary architects of the post-bop sound. Hancock’s music is often melodic and accessible; he has had many songs “cross over” and achieve success among pop audiences.
Hancock’s best-known compositions include “Cantaloupe Island“, “Watermelon Man” (later performed by dozens of musicians, including bandleader Mongo Santamaría), “Maiden Voyage“, “Chameleon“, and the singles “I Thought It Was You” and “Rockit“. His 2007 tribute album River: The Joni Letters won the 2008 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, only the second jazz album ever to win the award, after Getz/Gilberto in 1965.
Hancock was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Winnie Belle (Griffin), a secretary, and Wayman Edward Hancock, a government meat inspector.His parents named him after the singer and actor Herb Jeffries. He attended the Hyde Park Academy. Like many jazz pianists, Hancock started with a classical music education. He studied from age seven, and his talent was recognized early. Considered a child prodigy, he played the first movement of Mozart‘s Piano Concerto No. 26 in D Major, K. 537 (Coronation) at a young people’s concert on February 5, 1952, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (led by CSO assistant conductor George Schick) at the age of 11.