Herb Alpert Is…
directed by John Schenfeild
starring Herb Alpert
Duh. I just assumed Herb Alpert was from Mexico, but his dad was Russian and he grew up in L.A.. But a weekend in TJ inspired young Alpert to play in a brassy mariachi-influenced style that hit a chord with Americans in the 1960. Alpert had worked in the LA recording industry with some small labels like Keen Records. He gained some notoriety with minor hit “Tell It to the Birds,” but a weekend trip to the bullfights in Tijuana convinced him to play in a mariachi style. Alpert’s bright brass tunes were instant hits, and soon the money and fame were flowing. And as a real oddity in this cutthroat business, he didn’t implode on drugs or booze or bad business dealing. Instead, he and his partner, Jerry Moss bought Charlie Chaplin’s old production studio, and Alpert became a hit maker for other artists. Along the way, he became another sort of artist, working in oil and prints and abstract sculpture.
Alpert narrates the phases of his life from his youth in a small house in Boyle Heights to the top of the music world. Now we watch him as he thoughtfully paints, sketches, and creates sculpture. The painting is abstract but music influenced, the sculptures large and imposing, and his music skills remain as sharp as ever. Alpert had two wives, a rather low score in this business, and he’s been ripped off by a label or a manager. If this isn’t a charmed life in the entertainment world, I don’t know what is.
Alpert comes across as a kind, compassionate man who tries and succeeds in doing what good he can in the world. This deeply personal story lets you into his world, a charmed place free from the excesses and self-destruction so many in the music industry encounter. He had his hits, and there’s a greatest hits collection of his best tunes coming out separately. Alpert might not have the name recognition of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, but at his peak popularity, he outsold the Beatles. Now that’s an accomplishment!