Where are they now? - Jan Hammer

Jan Hammer - composer of the Miami Vice Theme (and Police Quest III theme)

For today's Where are they now? let us take a look at the career of Czech composer Jan Hammer. "But wait!" you say. "Isn't that the guy that wrote the 'Miami Vice' theme? What's he got to do with computer games?" You'd be right that Jan Hammer is most famous for his work on the 1980s cop show 'Miami Vice' especially for this:

and this:

But what you may not realise is that he scored the soundtrack for a Sierra point 'n' click adventure game that was released in 1991 called Police Quest III. I mean, if the guy is a virtuoso with cop show music, why not for a game about cops? The end-result is below and it is indeed a choice intro theme:

Although how did Hammer start and what's he up to nowadays?

Jan Hammer was born in 1948 in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic). Both of his parents were good at music, his mother being a singer and his father was proficient at playing musical instruments, even though his profession was a doctor. Hammer started learning piano at the young age of four but was planning to follow in his father's footsteps by studying medicine. However, one of Hammer's friends encouraged him to instead pursue music and in the early 1960s at the age of 14 he formed his own jazz trio that toured Eastern Europe. He'd eventually enrol into the Prague Academy of Musical Arts but in 1968 his studies were cut short when the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia. That same year, Hammer recorded a jazz trio live album called Maliny Maliny which would be his first (released by German label MPS Records) before he moved to the USA shortly after.

In the USA, Hammer received a scholarship at the Berklee College of Music in Boston before spending the next few years playing with several acts and talented musicians. In 1975, he went solo with the release of the album "The First Seven Days". During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Hammer saw considerable critical and commercial success but it wasn't until 1984 when he was recruited to score the music for cop show 'Miami Vice' that he really became famous.

In 1985 the 'Miami Vice' soundtrack hit #1 on the Billboard Top Pop album charts and sold more than 4 million copies. The following year, at the 1986 Grammy Awards, he won two awards for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Instrumental Composition. The show ended in 1988 and in the 1990s, Hammer focused on composing for TV, film and even computer games, such as 1991's Police Quest III. He even scored the music for a relatively unknown game (developed by an Australian developer no less) called Outlaw Racers that was released in 1998.

Hammer continued to work on music over the next several years and he's now released over 20 albums with his latest, 'Live in New York', having been released in 2008. His music from 'Miami Vice' was also used in two video games, 2002's Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and 2005's Miami Vice.

So what's he up to nowadays? Apparently he's still working on a compilation of unreleased works although there's been no word yet of how he's been going. Will he ever compose music for games again? My hunch tells me he wouldn't be adverse to doing so and considering there are so many games tapping into 80s nostalgia nowadays, I think there'd be plenty of potential projects he could work on.

[ Official Jan Hammer Website ]
[ Wikipedia: Jan Hammer ]