Jan Hammer Bio

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Jan Hammer is a Czech-American composer and record producer. He was born on the 17th of April 1948.

He was originally thrown into the spotlight while playing keyboard with the Mahavishnu Orchestra throughout the early 1970s, as well as his scores for film, TV, and gaming productions which included Crockett’s Theme and Miami Vice, which made him even more famous during the late 1980s.

Aside from performing musically, he has also been a producer and performer. It’s safe to say that Jan is a person of many talents who has been an extremely influential person.

Keeping in mind that most of Jan’s wealth was derived from his talents as a composer, what are his earnings and holdings looking like today at the age of 74? Read on to find out.

If you’re like me and are fascinated by some of the world’s most successful individuals, then this Jan Hammer bio will provide you with some insight into his life and career.

Jan Hammer Bio Facts

Full Name: Jan Hammer
Birth Date: 17th of April 1948
Birth Place: Prague
Nick Name: N/A
Nationality: Czech-American
Siblings: Unknown
Children: Paul Hammer
Partner / Spouse: Unknown
Profession: Producer, musician, composer,
Salary: Estimated at $28,000 – $1 million
Net Worth: Not publicly known
Social Media: Jan Hammer | Facebook (unofficial page)
Companies Associated With: Mahavishnu Orchestra
Last Updated: July 2022

Jan Hammer Key Facts Summary

Jan Hammer Key Facts Summary

  • Jan is pronounced with a “Y,” not a “J.”
  • Jan released two separate albums with Neil Schon from Journey, one in 1981 and the second in 1983.
  • Jan wrote the theme tune for the movie Knight Rider in 1991.
  • He once rocked out on stage with Eddie Van Halen in 1988.
  • His many talents were seen on recordings such as City Slicker, which was co-written and produced by himself; James Young’s Styx, John Abercrombie’s Night; Flash by Jeff Beck, and also Mick Jagger’s album, She’s the Boss.
  • Hammer’s song, Escape, won the award for “Best Rock Instrumental Performance” in 1985.
  • Hammer recorded the original soundtrack for the US HBO movie, Clinton and Nadine.
  • In 2014 he interviewed with Rolling Stone, revealing that he has always felt somewhere in the middle between alternative music and progressive rock.
  • Jan was popular in the gaming industry, he composed the music for many well-known computer games in the 80’s and 90’s.

Jan Hammer Birthplace and Early Life

Childhood

Jan was born in Prague to his parents Vlasta Průchová and his father, whose name is unknown. We know his father was a doctor who, like Jan, had a keen interest in musical interests; he played the vibraphone and the bass guitar. His mother was a singer. I would say it’s pretty clear to see where Jan’s musical interests were inherited from.

From a very young age, he had a strong mission in mind. He started playing instruments at just four when he learned to play the piano. It was two years later that he began his formal education in music.

When he was a young boy, I think he probably wanted to live up to his father’s expectations and follow in his medical footsteps, but his love for music was always at the forefront of his mind.

When he was in high school, he formed a jazz band with two of his fellow students, and at the age of just fourteen, they were already recording some fantastic music and performing across Eastern Europe.

Education

Jan Hammer Education

He also attended the Prague Academy of Musical Arts, where he took many classes, including harmony counterpoint, classical composition, and music history.

On the 20th of August 1968, Hammer’s education was cut short when Czechoslovakia was invaded by four Warsaw Pact countries. He and his band recorded an album live on stage at The Domicile, a jazz club in Munich, just 10 days after the invasion; it was released on vinyl by MPS Records.

Eventually, Hammer moved to the United States and decided to become a US citizen after receiving his scholarship at Berklee School of Music in Boston.

Mahavishnu Orchestra

After he had finished his studies, he went on tour with Sarah Vaughan, and the friends ended up recording music with the likes of Jeremy Steig and Elvin Jones.

He went to live in the big city, where he joined the Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin, Jerry Goodman, Billy Cobham, and Rick Laird. They were a fusion band that soon became highly successful.

The band performed 500+ shows altogether and gained a large following; they currently have a Facebook following of over 16,000, (2) so it was a sad day for fans when they performed their farewell concert on the 30th of December 1973.

Going, Solo and Jeff Beck

Hammer’s solo career started to grow around 1974, and in 1975, he released his album, called The First Seven Days. This was a fantastic album, which featured an incredibly complex use of synthesizer sounds. (3)

The album was recorded at his New York farmhouse, where he had purpose-built a recording studio; this remains the location for many of his recordings today.

The Jan Hammer Group was put together the year after the release of his album, and they released three LPs in 1977, including two albums with Jeff Beck. (4) The group released their final album this year.

He also wrote and performed three more songs for Jeff Becks’ album, called There and Back in 1980. During the nine US benefit concerts, which took place in 1983, he shared the stage with Becks.

Jan Hammer Early Business Success

Other Bands

Jan Hammer SKETCHES IN JAZZ

Hammer’s success continued to snowball through the late ’70s and early ’80s. In 1977, he recorded Elegant Gypsy, Casino, Electric Rendezvous and Splendido Hotel. Following a live tour with Di Meola, he contributed to over half of Scenario’s compositions using a Fairlight CMI synthesizer.

In 1978, Jan returned to working solo and released the album Black Sheep before forming a brand new band called Hammer.

Between 1981 and 1982, he formed the duo Schon & Hammer with Neal Schon; together, they recorded Untold Passion as well as Here to Stay.

Miami Vice

I think Hammer’s most significant challenge came during 1984 when Miami Vice producers hired him to score the show on a weekly basis; this included a pretty intense schedule.

The hard work paid off, though; people loved his pieces on the series from the get-go. The show got to number one in the “Billboard Top Pop” album charts and received quadruple platinum status with sales rocketing above 4 million.

At the Grammys, the theme tune was meritted Hammer two awards, these were the Best Pop Instrumental Performance and the Best Instrumental Performance.

He won a fair few other awards between 1985 and 1986, too, some of which included “Best Studio Synthesist” and the “Outstanding Achievement in Musical Composition.” He was also included in the Keyboard Hall of Fame.

If like me you’re interested in the lives of the rich and famous, you should take a look at others who aren’t afraid to show off their achievements, such as, Rich Paul  and Bob Igor.

After Hammer decided to quit working for Miami Vice in 1988, the show continued to use his music until the show came to end in 1989.

His subsequent two assignments were a significant part of his next album. One of these was when he was contracted to compose and conduct The Runner for a big TV ad in England starring Bob Geldof, and the second, he scored and also performed the theme tunes for the TV series Euro Cops.

In 1989, he recorded every track on the album Snapshots, which was the first full album to be released from the new Red Gate studio. The album’s first single promo featured David Gilmour, Ringo Star, and Jeff Beck.

The 90’s

Jan Hammer The 90's

During the beginning of the ’90s, Hammer went on tour with Tony Williams, a drummer. They performed together at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, which was documented on DVD and CD.

Throughout the 1990s, he composed music for many well-known TV series and movies, such as Curiosity Kills, Chancer, Tales from the Crypt, Knight Rider, The Taking of Beverly Hills, and Sunset Heat. 

Hammer’s next big project was called Beyond the Mind’s Eye, which was a video album that was released by Miramar Productions.

TV Nova was Eastern Europe’s first commercial TV network. They commissioned Hammer to score all of the music. He composed everything for them, including themes for shows, station IDs, and all of the music for the news programs, sports, and weather.

In 1994, he recorded Drive, his first major album of non-soundtrack and original songs. He also hooked back up with Jeff Beck once again on Underground.

In 1995, Hammer went back to scoring (a musical term meaning putting together, laying out a piece of music). He started with the Universal drama Vanishing Son and then composed and scored the theme for thirteen series episodes.

He also scored and performed the music for two movies in 1996, which were A Modern Affair and The Kingdom of the Blind, the Man with One Eye Is King. He ended the year with the scoring of Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus.

Hammer continued scoring through 1996; some of his work included The Babysitter’s Seduction, The Secret Agent Club, and The Corporate Ladder.

As part of Outlaw Racers, a new CD-ROM game released in 1997, he composed the hard-driving rock soundtrack and wrote the theme and score for the series and pilot, Prince Street.

In 1999, Hammer began producing and performing the record Even Odds for Jeff Becks’ latest album and also released the last recorded studio album with The Mahavishnu Orchestra. It had been pre-recorded just before the band had broken up back in 1973.

The 2000’s to Now

In 2006 he had the privilege of producing the primary score for the soundtrack of Cocaine Cowboys, a documentary that depicted the notorious Miami drug scene during the 1980s.

The Best of Miami Vice came out in 2004, containing updated versions of the series’ theme songs.

The first series of Miami Vice was released in 2005 by Universal Studios Home Entertainment, and it was so large that it was spread over three double-sided DVDs.

Among these was never before seen footage that showed Jan producing the show’s theme tunes back in 1985, as well as an extensive interview with Jan himself. At the same time, Reality Records launched a refreshed adaptation of Crockett’s Theme to AC radio.

In 2006, Jan was given the opportunity to join forces with the rapper Terrance Quaints (also known as TQ) to cover a new rendition of the track, Crockett’s Theme.

They called this the Jan Hammer Project; Featuring TQ. The song was soon creeping up the charts until it was number one on the iTunes Europe download list. (5) If music streaming platforms are something of interest to you, you should check out our Spotify Competitors Analysis.

In 2014 he recorded a different edition of the Squidbillies, and on the 20th of July 2018, Jan released his initial album containing all of his new material and other styles of music, called Seasons – Part One. 

The last big part of his career was the release of Sketches in Jazz in 2020, where we see him combining visiting the past and journeying into the future, even after five decades in the business.

Jan Hammer Videos

Listen to the album performed with Jeff Beck – Wired.

(18) Jeff Beck – Wired – YouTube

Watch the full interview with Jan Hammer on UK breakfast TV, where he talks in-depth about how he composed the theme for Miami Vice and the album Escape from Television.

(18) Jan Hammer on UK Breakfast News (1987) – YouTube

Watch the official video of the theme that made Jan famous today.

(18) Jan Hammer – Miami Vice Theme [OFFICIAL VIDEO] – YouTube

Watch Jan playing live at the Hollywood Bowl with legend Jeff Beck.

(18) Jeff Beck w/ Jan Hammer Live At The Hollywood Bowl – Blue Wind – YouTube

Jan Hammer Business Failures

Jan Hammer has led an immaculate-cut lifestyle and has always been a successful artist. Although one member of Mahavishnu Orchestra, John McLaughlin, refers to Jan as a Jerk, and Jan still has an issue with John to this day, I am not sure what the original fallout was about, but my guess is just your typical case of band members clashing.

Jan Hammer Family [Spouse / Partner, Kids]

Jan keeps his personal life extremely private, so nothing is known about whether or not he is married or even has a partner, for that matter. One thing I do know is that he has one son called Paul. Paul is the frontman for the band Savoir Adore, a pop-rock duo.

Jan Hammer Net Worth and Career Earnings

Although his exact net worth and salary of Jan aren’t currently known, we can make an estimated guess of course, when he was in his prime, he was worth a lot of money, somewhere between $1 million and $5 million, as it stands today at the age of 73, he is worth an amount more like $500,000 to $1million.

Jan Hammer Real Estate Holdings

Yet again, because of how private Jan is when it comes to his personal life, nothing is actually known about what houses he now owns or where in fact, he even lives these days; it’s possible that he moved back to his hometown, or stayed residing in New York, perhaps he still frequents both.

Jan Hammer Quotes

Jan Hammer Quotes

After such a successful career, let’s look at some things Jan has to say about his successful career and life quotes.

“Although jazz has always ruled my world, I drifted further and further away from that passion as I began to work in TV, films, and games… Regardless, I feel that jazz is inseparable from improvisation, and improvisation has always fueled my journey and brought me back full circle to this project.”

“Still for fun, I play the drums, but I don’t do much recording with them.”

“Growing up, I was very much interested in jazz music.”

Jan Hammer Bio FAQs

Question: What is Jan Hammer Doing Now?

Answer: According to sources, Jan continues to work on compilations today, though nothing has been released for a while.

Question: How Many Albums Does Jan Hammer Have?

Answer: In total, he has released 20 albums.

Question: How Many Movies has Jan Hammer Composed For?

Answer: At least 14, including 90 installments of Miami Vice and 20 of Chancer.

Recommended Reads:

Research Citations:

  1. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/AllMusic
  2. Mahavishnu Orchestra | Facebook
  3. (18) Jan Hammer – The First Seven Days – 01 – YouTube
  4. Wired — Jeff Beck | Last.fm
  5. Apple Music
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