Herbie Hancock began playing piano at his home in Chicago when he was seven years old. He gave his first public performance two years later. In high school, he picked up an ear for jazz. Herbert 'Herbie' Jeffrey Hancock was born on 12 April 1940 in Chicago, Illinois, and was given classical music training at home. He started playing the piano at the age of seven and his talents were recognised from a young age. After he graduated from Grinnell College in Iowa, he moved to New York City and, at age 20, joined with trumpeter Donald Byrd. Byrd introduced him to Blue Note Records executives, and Hancock recorded his first solo album in 1963. Soon, Hancock won the attention of the legendary Miles Davis, who invited Hancock to join his new group. While working with Miles, Hancock developed an interest in funk.
Hancock then decided to form his own band, The Headhunters. He began to pioneer what would later be called fusion, a mixture of funk and rock with jazz. 'Headhunters' (1973) was the first album on which Hancock used a synthesizer, and went on to become the largest-selling jazz album in history. After a few years, Hancock returned to his roots as an acoustic pianist, with the V.S.O.P. Quintet, a recreation of Miles' band (without Miles). In 1983, Hancock released 'Future Shock', which was a pioneering electronic work, but also a hit on both R&B and dance charts. The single 'Rock It' won the Grammy for best R&B Instrumental, and the album went gold. Hancock released 'Dis is Da Drum' in 1994, an album based on West African rhythms. In 1997, Hancock released '1+1', a duet session with saxophonist, Wayne Shorter. The following year, he reunited with his old Headhunter bandmates, to record an album, 'Return of the Headhunters', and for a series of summer concerts.
In 2007, Hancock, a longtime associate and friend of Joni Mitchell, released an album, 'River: The Joni Letters', that paid tribute to her work. Norah Jones and Tina Turner were among the stars to record vocals on the album. Mitchell herself also made an appearance. The album was released in September of that year, simultaneously with the release of Mitchell's album 'Shine'. 'River' was nominated for and won the 2008 Album of the Year Grammy Award, only the second jazz album ever to receive either honour. The album also won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, and the song 'Both Sides Now' was nominated for Best Instrumental Jazz Solo. In 2010, Hancock released 'Herbie Hancock's The Imagine Project', which was critically acclaimed and won the Best Pop Collaboration and Best Improvised Jazz Solo Grammys at the 2011 award ceremony. It features several fellow musicians including Seal, Pink, Jeff Beck, Dave Matthews and Chaka Khan. As well as music, Hancock maintains a thriving career outside of the recording studio as Creative Chair for Jazz at the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
He is also chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, which is an international organisation devoted to the development of the genre. Hancock also founded the International Committee of Artists for Peace.In July 2011, Hancock was named an honorary UNESCO goodwill ambassador due to his contributions to the promotion of peace through dialogue, culture and music.