He was the eldest son of Shantipriya and Nilakanta Hazarika who had ten children. His mother exposed him to folk music of Assam. At the age of 10 in 1936, he recorded his first song for the Selona Company at Aurora Studio. Subsequently, he sang Biswo Bijoyi Naujawan and Kaxote Kolosi Loi for the Assamese film Indramalati (1939) and wrote Agnijugor Firingoti Moi his first song when he was 13.
Bhupen Hazarika completed his schooling in 1942 from Tezpur High School and did his MA Political Science from Cotton College in 1946. Later, he earned his Ph.D. Degree from Columbia University in 1952 where he also met Priyamvada Patel and married her. He has his only child with her named Tez Hazarika.
He was the MLA (Independent) in the Assam Legislative Assembly from 1967-72 and also contested as the candidate of Bharatiya Janata Party for the Lok Sabha election in 2004.
He died on 5 November 2011 due to multi-organ failure and was cremated near the Brahmaputra River.