Jan Hammer (born on April 17, 1948 in Prague) was a Czech composer, pianist and keyboardist known for his notable work on Miami Vice theme in 1988. He started to play at four and later had formal lessons at six. Though he also wanted to be a doctor like her father, Hammer gave his musical ability a chance and studied on different music schools, one of which was in Boston’s Berklee College of Music where he received a scholarship in late 1960s. Eventually, everything paid off well when Hammer composed the Miami Vice Theme in 1988 and became a breakthrough hit. It stalled at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and on the Billboard Top Pop album chart.
Jan Hammer’s early years
Czech composer, pianist and keyboardist Jan Hammer (Czech pronunciation: [ˈjan ˈɦamɛr]) was born on April 17, 1948 in Prague, Czecholovakia (now Czech Republic). His father worked as a doctor while his mother was the popular Czech singer named Vlasta Pruchova. Four-year old Hammer began to play the piano and later took formal piano lesson at the age of six. One of Hammer’s ambitions was to follow his father’s footsteps but things changed when he was convinced by a family friend to enter the recording business. While attending the Prague Academy of Musical Arts. In 1968, Hammer’s studies was interrupted when he was chosen by the Warsaw Pact to cut a jazz trio live album in Munich. He shortly relocated to Boston, USA to pursue a scholarship at Berklee College of Music. By that time, Hammer had toured and recorded with several artists until he finished his scholarship at Berklee. While touring, he began to play the Mini Moog synthesizer that it made him as one of the pioneers who played the high-end instrument during that time.
In 1971, Hammer became a member of Mahavishnu Orchestra along with Jerry Goodman, a violinist who he worked with for the jazz guitarist John Abercrombie’s Timeless album. He later formed The Jan Hammer Group in 1976 and was able to issue four LP’s. In the mid 70s to early 80s, Hammer worked with guitaritst Jeff Beck for a number of projects; Beck released a live allbum called Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group Live in 1977. Hammer contributed three songs for the Beck’s follow-up album There and Back in 1980 and performed with Beck on stage for Ronnie Lane’s benefit concerts in 1983.
The success of “Miami Vice Theme”
Hammer had created original music scores for a number films, TV movies and commercials. However, in 1984, he finally reached the peak of popularity when he did the musical scoring for the American crime drama series Miami Vice. In 1985, the Miami Vice soundtrack climbed up to #1 on the Billboard Top Pop album charts and on the Billboard Hot 100 as well. Hammer won two categories (Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Instrumental Composition) at the Grammy Awards in 1986. By the end of that year, he was awarded as the Best Studio Synthesist” by the Keyboard Magazine twice a year. Holding the title for seven years, Hammer was inducted into the Keyboard Hall of Fame. Two years after, Hammer dropped his duties as a musical scorer for Miami Vice for good. However, he continued doing original scores for a list of movies and series from 1980’s to 2000’s.
Miami Vice Theme