My Secret Life: Herb Alpert, musician, 75

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The Independent Online

My parents were ... pretty brave. My father was born in Russia. He came to New York alone, on a ship, around 1916, escaping the nasty things going on there. He couldn't speak a word of English, but little by little he built himself up. He met my mother, became a tailor, and over the years brought his entire family over to America to join him.

The house/flat I grew up in ... was in LA. I'm a native. I was born and raised here. I was here before the smog, when you could see all the way from the sea to the mountains.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... older.

If I could change one thing about myself ... I'd like to have my hair back. In its heyday, I was the pompadour kid.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... helping people. There are so many kids out there who think about doing something in the arts, but are afraid to take that step. So about 20 years ago, I set up a foundation to help them. It's done some great things.

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... dancing. I thought I was good, but then I met my wife. Then I realised that I got the rhythm, but I don't have the groove.

At night I dream of ... a world where we'd all get along together and be at peace.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... somebody who tries to be honest.

My favourite item of clothing ... probably my underwear. I like it to be nice and loose, to give the boys some freedom.

I wish I'd never worn ... I don't think in those terms. You can't go back.

It's not fashionable but I like... a good waffle.

I drive ... a BMW.

My house is ... in Malibu. I've always liked to live near the water.

My favourite building ... I really like the structure Frank Gehry did in Bilbao. Beautiful. Contemporary. Magic.

My favourite work of art ... When I was in Florence and I saw Michelangelo's statue of David for the first time, I thought: "That's what art's all about!" With my own sculptures (my exhibition 'Black Totems' is currently showing in Beverly Hills), I try to make art that appeals more to the soul than the eyes.

A book that changed me ... My friend Sir Ken Robinson wrote a book called 'The Element'. It nails it perfectly in terms of how we have to train people differently.

Movie heaven ... When I was a kid I saw 'Diabolique'. It still haunts me.

The last album I bought/downloaded ... I'm a jazz musician but I was classically trained, so I'm crazy about Ravel and Beethoven. With Beethoven, the last record I bought was his Seventh Symphony. With Ravel, it was 'Daphnis et Chloé'.

My secret crush ... was on my wife, before we got together. We've been married for 36 years.

My greatest regret ... when I owned A&M, I didn't sign The Beatles. It was 1962, and they were available. I just wasn't aware of them.

My real-life villain ... anybody who's nasty to people.

The person who really makes me laugh ... Richard Pryor.

The last time I cried ... was when I watched the TV programme 'So You Think You Can Dance?' There are things that just touch me about the kids and the hard work they put in.

My five-year plan ... To be still breathing.

What's the point? There is no masterplan. You make your own way.

My life in six words ... I'm a guy who spends 85 per cent of my time on the right side of the brain. It works for me. Is that six words?

A life in brief

Herb Alpert was born in Los Angeles in 1935. He began playing the trumpet aged eight, and achieved fame in the 1960s with the Latin band Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, which sold over 50m records. In 1962, he co-founded A&M records with Jerry Moss. After selling it to Polygram in 1990 he created the Herb Alpert Foundation, which gives $10-$20 million a year to good causes. He will be featured on BBC4's 'Legends' on 17 September