Alpert was born and raised in Los Angeles into a family of musical hobbyists – his father a mandolin player, his mother a violinist, and his brother a drummer. He picked up the trumpet at age eight and, as a youth, played at local dances, as part of the USC Trojan Marching Band, and with the U.S. Army’s military band. He began his career in music as a songwriter for Keen Records, quickly showing his potential with writing credits on several hit songs, including Sam Cooke’s iconic “Wonderful World.” After dabbling as a vocal recording artist for RCA records, Alpert took a huge financial risk in self-releasing the first Tijuana Brass album under his and Jerry Moss’s new A&M Records label. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass quickly grew in popularity and became one of the hottest touring acts in America. With follow-up releases Whipped Cream and Other Delights and Going Places, Alpert’s group attained stardom. In 1966, the Brass outsold the Beatles, who themselves had just released Rubber Soul and Revolver. That same year, the Brass had five albums within the Billboard Top 20 simultaneously – a feat that has never been replicated.
Alpert’s list of achievements includes nine Grammy Awards, fourteen platinum albums, and over 72 million in worldwide sales – and this merely scratches the surface of the gravity that his career has had in the world of popular music. Despite these and many more accolades, Alpert’s greatest source of pride lies with his work as founder of The Herb Alpert Foundation – an organization dedicated to supporting youth education in the arts and environmental initiatives. His 2007 donation to UCLA endowed the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, which affords its students a world-class music education. His donations have also helped to support the music curricula at CalArts, PBS television programming, and numerous other endeavors in education and the arts. In 2012, Alpert was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama for his lifelong contributions to music and education.