Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"Rockit" by Herbie Hancock

Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  1603
Date:  09/10/1983
Debut:  86
Peak:  71
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B, Dance, Funk, Electronic, Instrumental

Pop Bits:  Influential jazz artist Herbie Hancock got a major career boost when he was hand picked to join Miles Davis' legendary group in 1963. As part of that quintet, Hancock would perform on classic Davis albums like Sorcerer and Nefertiti. During that time, Hancock also recorded his own albums that would prove to be just as influential. After leaving the Davis group later in 1968, Hancock began to branch out to newer instruments and sounds which culminated in his big 1973 jazz-funk album Head Hunters (#1 Jazz, #2 R&B, #13 Pop). As the 70s moved on, Hancock began to move towards a more electronic sound combined with commercial elements and the results were decidedly mixed. But then he got an offer to help boost and record hip-hop influenced songs that were written by musicians Bill Laswell and Michael Beinhorn for their group Material. The project took shape and would end up being released under Hancock's name. Future Shock would be another highly influential recording in Hancock's catalog. The electro-funk album would become Hancock's second platinum seller (#2 Jazz, #10 R&B, #43 Pop) thanks in part to this single. Boosted by a video that was hugely popular on MTV, the song would hit #1 at Dance and #6 at R&B. Oddly enough, despite heavy rotation on MTV, the single floundered at Pop for a couple of months and then dropped off. Despite Pop's resistance, the single sold well and would end up getting gold certification. It also got Hancock a Grammy award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance. Hancock's flirtation with a more commercial sound would continue through the 80s and he would grab a few minor R&B chart entries, but this song would be his last to hit the Pop chart. He returned to more jazz-oriented fare later in the 90s.

ReduxReview:  I thought for sure this was a Top 10 hit. I'm not sure why. I guess seeing the video a billion times on MTV made me think it was a major Pop hit. Weirdly, I couldn't remember the melody of this song until I played it again. My mind was confusing it with Harold Faltermeyers' 1984 #3 hit "Axel F," from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. Once the song started, it all came back to me. I didn't really care for the tune back then, even though the video was endlessly fascinating. The song has been credited as being the first mainstream single to feature scratching and was highly influential in hip-hop music. I appreciate the song much more these days and should probably get it into a playlist.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) The video for this song was directed by 10cc's Godley & Creme. It was a big hit on MTV and at the very first MTV Music Video awards, it won five trophies. However, it lost the Video of the Year award to The Cars' "You Might Think."  2) This was Hancock's second Pop chart single. His first was in 1974 when "Chameleon" from the Head Hunters LP reached #43 (#18 R&B). However, as a composer, three of his original songs helped other artists reach the Top 10. In 1963, Mongo Santamaría hit #10 on the Pop chart (#3 AC/#8 R&B) with his version of Hancock's song "Watermelon Man." Decades later, Dee-Lite used a sample of Hancock's "Bring Down the Birds" from his score to the 1967 film "Blow-Up" to drive their hit 1990 single "Groove Is in the Heart" (#1 Dance, #4 Pop). Finally, British jazz-rap group Us3 sampled Hancock's 1964 song "Cantaloupe Island" for their 1993 hit "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)" (#9 Pop, #21 R&B).  3) Although Hancock had already won 10 Grammy awards, his most significant win came in 2008 when his album River: The Joni Letters unexpectedly grabbed the Album of the Year award. It was only the second jazz album in the history of the Grammys to win that award. The first was in 1965 when the Getz/Gilberto album by Stan Getz and João Gilberto took it home. Hancock's album would win one more Grammy that night and in 2011 he would win to more statues bringing his haul to 14 awards.


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