Miami Vice Composer
Miami Vice Characters
April 17, 1948, Prague, Czechoslovakia
Jan Hammer (born April 17, 1948 as Jan Hamr) is an Czech musician, keyboardist, and songwriter who composed the background score music for the first four seasons of Miami Vice (although he was joined by John Petersen for much of season 4). As the show's original composer, he composed the famous "Miami Vice Theme" that featured in all 111 episodes of the series.
Hammer was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. He began studying music at the Prague Academy of the Arts, but left for the United States after the Soviet Union invasion of his homeland in 1968, studying at Boston's Berklee College of Music. After graduation, Hammer joined the Mahavishnu Orchestra as a keyboardist, where he played from 1971 until 1973. In 1975 he formed The Jan Hammer Group, and recorded four albums, two with rock star Jeff Beck, returning the favor for Beck's 1980 album There and Back when Hammer turned solo. Hammer then joined forces on albums for Neal Schon (of Journey), James Young (of Styx), Mick Jagger, and reuniting with Beck in 1985, Hammer's recording "Escape" won the 1985 Grammy for Best Instrumental Performance.
Hammer worked on made-for-TV movies, station bumpers and other small productions until the producers of Miami Vice approached him to provide score music for their new series. Hammer's time on Vice gave the composer by far his greatest success, and his smooth synthesised soundtrack is today considered not just one of the defining aspects of the show, but to be among the greatest television scores ever written. All of Hammer's most famous works are taken from the series, including the iconic "Miami Vice Theme" and "Crockett's Theme", both of which were hit singles around the world in the mid-1980s. Many of his other pieces, such as "The Talk", "Marina", "Lombard" and "Rico's Blues", are also immediately recognisable and incredibly popular with fans of the show. Hammer's "Miami Vice Theme" earned him two Grammys and reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (the last TV theme song and the last instrumental to do so). Partly fuelled by this success, the first Miami Vice soundtrack album also reached the #1 spot on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart in 1985 (the last TV soundtrack to do so for over 20 years). During his time composing for Miami Vice, Hammer also appeared in two on-screen cameos on the show, in the episodes "One Way Ticket" and "Like a Hurricane"; on both occasions he played a musician at a wedding.
During season 4 of the show Hammer reduced his contributions to the series, and John Petersen was brought in to share some of the workload after Hammer heard a demo tape of his and suggested him to the producers. While the two initially collaborated, Petersen later took over completely, reducing Hammer's involvement to the mere recycling of old cues, although Hammer's name was still displayed in the opening credits. After briefly returning to the show (as per the producers' wishes) to compose the final two episodes of season 4, Hammer left completely at season's end, turning over scoring duties to Tim Truman for season 5.
Hammer returned to the recording studio, performing on solo albums by Clarence Clemmons (of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band) and Steve Lukather (from Toto), scoring TV shows such as Tales From The Crypt and the British series Chancer, the movies I Come In Peace and The Taking of Beverly Hills, returned to perform on albums by Beck and his former band, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, performed on the movie Cocaine Cowboys, a documentary referencing the Miami drug trade during the 1980s (and the Vice era), and released new recordings of his Vice performances, including a new version of "Crockett's Theme" that featured singer/rapper TQ in 2006, which reached the top of Europe's iTunes download list. Other releases include "Made For Each Other" with Dutch DJ and producer, Junkie XL, published in 2010 on Junkie XL's Fairlight EP. In 2018 Seasons, Pt. 1 was released, Hammer's first new music in nearly a decade.
Miami Vice Soundtrack Releases
Several Miami Vice soundtracks have been released since the show began, many of which contain at least a small selection of Hammer's score music. The albums and their contributions from Hammer are as follows:
- Miami Vice, various artists -- contains "Miami Vice Theme", "Flashback", "Chase" and "Evan"
- Miami Vice II, various artists -- contains "Miami Vice Theme", "Crockett's Theme" and "New York Theme"
- Escape from Television, Jan Hammer -- contains numerous cues
- Miami Vice III, various artists -- contains "New York Theme" and "Wedding"
- The Best of Miami Vice (1989), various artists -- contains "Miami Vice Theme", "Crockett's Theme" and "One Way Out"
- The Best of Miami Vice (1994), various artists -- contains "Miami Vice Theme", "Crockett's Theme", "Chase" and "One Way Out"
- The Best of Miami Vice (1996), various artists -- contains "Miami Vice Theme", "Crockett's Theme", "Chase" and "Tubbs and Valerie"
- Miami Vice: The Complete Collection, Jan Hammer -- contains an extensive selection of Hammer's music
- The Best of Miami Vice (2004), Jan Hammer -- contains numerous cues
- "Crockett's Theme" [single], Jan Hammer Project and TQ -- contains new version of "Crockett's Theme"
- The Best of Miami Vice (2006), various artists -- contains "Miami Vice Theme" and "Crockett's Theme"