Watermelon Man – Herbie Hancock – 1973

Herbie Hancock watermelon man 1973It’s a tune everybody’s heard but many people don’t know the name of—Herbie Hancock’s, Watermelon Man.  First released in 1962 then reworked and re-released a little over a decade later.

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  • Born in Chicago in 1940, Herbie Hancock was named after a favourite singer of the time, Herb Jeffries
  • Herbie was considered a child musical prodigy commencing classical piano lessons at seven years of age.  At 11 years old, he played the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 26 in D Major, K. 537 (Coronation) at a young people’s concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
  • Herbie Hancock 3He studied at Grinnell College and graduated with degrees in electrical engineering and music—the latter being his real love.
  • After working with jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd, Herbie joined the Miles Davis Quintet where he is credited with being one of the primary architects of the post-bop sound—he was one of the first jazz musicians to embrace synthesizers and funk music.
  • Herbie’s best-known compositions include Cantaloupe Island and Watermelon Man.
  • Herbie’s awards include: the 1986 Original Soundtrack Oscar, for Round Midnight and 14 Grammy Awards including 2008’s Album of the Year for River: The Joni Letters – one of only two jazz albums to ever win the Album of the Year Grammy.
  • Herbie has released over 50 albums and, at 75 years old, continues to perform today.

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  • Herbie Hancock 1Watermelon Man was written by Herbie Hancock and first released on his 1962 debut album, Takin’ Off.  He then radically re-worked the tune releasing a funked-up version on his 1973 album, Head Hunters.
  • In the meantime, in 1963, Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaría released the tune as a Latin pop single.  It reached #10 on the US single charts and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
  • Watermelon Man is said to have been covered by over 200 artists including: The tune is a jazz standard and has been recorded over two hundred times.
  • Jazz lyricist Jon Hendricks set words to Watermelon Man, releasing his version in 1963.  That version has been covered by Stevie Wonder, Manfred Mann, Bill Haley & His Comets, and The J.B.’s, James Brown’s backing band.
  • Herbie’s Head Hunters recording has been sampled in a number of tunes including: LL-Cool-J’s, 1-900-LL-Cool-J; and Madonna’s, Sanctuary.
  • Watermelon Man is also a popular tune amongst ska bands.
  • Watermelon Man lyrics (not written by Herbie Hancock).

watermelon man – herbie hancock – 1973

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