Childhood & Early Life
Herb Alpert was born on March 31, 1935, in Los Angeles, California. His parents were immigrants of Jewish origin. Alpert’s father, a tailor, was also an accomplished mandolin player. His mother was a violinist, and his elder brother was a drummer. Born into a family of musicians, young Alpert was drawn toward music from childhood.
Alpert started taking trumpet lessons at the age of eight. While in high school, he received classical training from Benjamin Klatzkin. As a teenager, he often played at dances.
Alpert graduated from ‘Fairfax High School’ in 1952. Thereafter, he joined the ‘US Army’ and performed regularly at military events. Although he had also ventured into acting, he soon found out that his true talent lay in music. Alpert was a member of the ‘USC Trojan Marching Band’ for two years, while attending the ‘University of Southern California.’ He also made an uncredited appearance as the ‘Drummer on Mt. Sinai’ in the 1956 movie ‘The Ten Commandments.’
Continue Reading Below
In 1957, Alpert began his career as a songwriter for ‘Keen Records.’ Songs such as ‘Baby Talk’ by Jan and Dean and ‘Wonderful World’ by Sam Cooke, which were co-written by him, became instant hits. In 1960, he started working as a vocalist with ‘Dot Records,’ as “Dore Alpert.”
Alpert found a good friend in another musician, Jerry Moss. In 1962, the duo teamed up to form their music company, ‘A&M Records.’ The company had a humble beginning, and in the initial days, Alpert’s garage doubled up as his recording studio. Over the years, ‘A&M’ attained huge success and became one of the biggest independent labels of the country.
While attending a bullfight in Tijuana, Mexico, Alpert happened to hear a local “mariachi” band. He was highly inspired by the lively brass music and the charged-up atmosphere, and tried to incorporate it in his music. This led to the creation of ‘The Lonely Bull,’ the debut album of ‘Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass.’ The album was a big hit and climbed up to No. 6 on the ‘Billboard Pop Singles’ chart.
Initially, ‘Tijuana Brass’ consisted of only Alpert, overdubbing his own trumpet. However, after the success of its first album, there was a growing demand for live performances of ‘Tijuana Brass.’ In 1964, Alpert hired a team of session musicians and formed his band, which became one of the highest-paid bands of the time.
In 1965, ‘A&M Records’ released two albums, ‘Whipped Cream & Other Delights’ and ‘Going Places.’ These albums were among the most popular releases by the company. Many tracks from these albums were frequently played on the radio. ‘A Taste of Honey’ from ‘Whipped Cream’ won a ‘Grammy Award.’ In 1966, ‘Tijuana Brass’ sold over 13 million records, outperforming ‘The Beatles.’
‘This Guy’s in Love with You,’ a single released by Alpert in 1968, had him singing the lead vocals. The song was originally intended for a TV series. However, sensing the popularity it had garnered, Alpert decided to release it as a single. The song reached the No. 1 spot on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ pop singles chart.
Alpert tasted success in his career as a solo performer too, throughout the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s. In 1979, his solo instrumental track, ‘Rise,’ won the ‘Grammy Award’ for ‘Best Pop Instrumental Performance.’ ‘Rise’ secured the first position on the ‘Billboard Pop Singles’ chart, and with its release, Alpert became the only musician to have occupied the number one spot in the chart, both as a vocalist and as an instrumentalist.
In 1987, Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss sold ‘A&M Records’ to ‘PolyGram.’ They continued to manage the label till 1993, when they finally quit due to irreconcilable differences. In 1994, they started their record label, ‘Almo Sounds.’
In 2007, Alpert and his wife, Lani Hall, formed a new music band. They released several albums such as ‘I Feel You,’ ‘In The Mood,’ ‘Steppin’ Out,’ and ‘Come Fly With Me.’ Some of these albums were featured on the ‘Billboard Top Jazz Albums’ chart.
Continue Reading Below
Alpert’s career as an abstract painter and sculptor is another feather in his cap. His sculpture exhibition, ‘Herb Alpert: Black Totems,’ which was held in 2010, in Beverly Hills, showcased his masterpieces to the public. In 2013, he held an exhibition of his abstract paintings and totem-like sculptures in Santa Monica, California.
Awards & Achievements
Herb Alpert has won nine ‘Grammy Awards’ in his career. In 2007, he won the ‘Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.’ He has fourteen “platinum” albums and fifteen “gold” albums to his credit.
Alpert has a “star” on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’ for his contribution to the recording industry. In 2006, his name was included in the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ for his exceptional work with ‘A&M Records.’
In 1966, Alpert’s name was included in the ‘Guinness Book of World Records,’ as he set a new record of having five of his albums featured among the ‘Top 20’ on the ‘Billboard Pop Album’ chart simultaneously.
Alpert is a renowned philanthropist. In the 1980s, he created ‘The Herb Alpert Foundation,’ to support youth and arts education. The foundation has also extended support to various environmental causes. In 2012, the foundation provided a grant to the ‘Harlem School of the Arts’ for starting a scholarship program for needy students. In 2016, it granted a donation to the ‘Los Angeles City College,’ for providing tuition-free education to all music majors.
In 2007, Alpert donated US$ 30 million to the ‘University of California, Los Angeles’ (UCLA). This donation was for the endowment of the ‘UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.’