Herb Alpert – The American Genius of Mexican Music
Herbert "Herb" Alpert was born March 31, 1935 in Los Angeles, California, to the family of Tillie and Louis Alpert. His family was Jewish, and had come to the U.S. from Radomyshl Zhytomyr province (then – Russian Empire, in present-day – Ukraine) and Romania. His father, although a tailor by trade, was also a talented mandolin player. His mother taught violin at a young age. His older brother David was a talented young drummer.
Alpert began trumpet lessons at the age of eight and played at festivities as a teenager. Later in life he joined the U.S. Army and performed at military ceremonies. After the service, while studying at the University of Southern California, he was a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band, and tried acting, soon though realizing that his true calling was music.
In 1956, he appeared in the uncredited role of a drummer on Mt. Sinai in the film The Ten Commandments.
During a visit to Tijuana, Mexico, he heard a mariachi band while attending a bullfight, and this inspired him to find a way to express musically what he felt while watching the responses of the crowd. Alpert adapted the trumpet style to the tune he was working on in his garage studio, mixed in crowd cheers and other ambient noises, and names the song "The Lonely Bull". He personally funded the production of the record and its distribution through radio stations. Soon the tune really caught on, and became a Top 10 hit in 1962.
He created his own band Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass or simply TJB, enlisting several talented brass players and scoring several hits. The band toured extensively and made multiple commercially successful recordings. Their popularity of the fake Mexican trumpeters spawned several copycat bands and caused a true mariachi band craze across America!
The band's musical accomplishments include five No. 1 albums on the Billboard Album chart, nine Grammy Awards, fourteen platinum and fifteen gold albums (more than 72 million albums sold).
In 1967, the Tijuana Brass performed the title cut to the first movie version of Casino Royale.
From the 70s through 90s, Alpert enjoyed a successful solo career, becoming the only recording artist ever to hit No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop chart as both a vocalist and an instrumentalist.
The musician is also active as an abstract expressionist painter and sculptor, who has exhibited his workd around the United States and Europe.
For his contribution to the music industry, Alpert was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On July 10, 2013 Alpert was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama himself.
Alpert's personal life has been as steady as his career: he has been married to recording artist Lani Hall since 1974, and has a daughter, the prominent actress Aria Alpert.
"Herb Alpert - Biography". Almo Sounds, Inc. 1996.
Piccoli, Sean (April 24, 1997). "Turning Brass Into Gold". The Sun Sentinel.