Harvard Appoints Herbie Hancock Professor of Poetry

The jazz legend, 73, will deliver six lectures on a variety of topics ranging from Buddhism to the wisdom of Miles Davis

Herbie Hancock
Bret Hartman/For The Washington Post
January 10, 2014 5:35 PM ET

Harvard University has appointed Herbie Hancock the 2014 Norton Professor of Poetry. As part of the honor, the jazz legend will deliver six lectures on a variety of topics next month, though he told BBC Radio 5 – as reported by The BBC – those talks will mostly cover personal stories and his own history.

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He said one would be titled "The Wisdom of Miles Davis," with whom Hancock played in Sixties. Another would be about Buddhism and creativity, as Hancock has practiced Buddhism for the last four decades.

Over the years, luminaries like Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot and Leonard Bernstein have held the honorary professorship, which the school introduced in 1925. Hancock told the BBC that following in Bernstein's footsteps was "pretty daunting."

"The reason that I was chosen for this position was only partially because of music," Hancock told Radio 5. "They also realized that I'm a goodwill ambassador to [the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture], which is partly to do with cultural diplomacy which I'm addressing in one of my lectures."

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Hancock also told the BBC his personal muse was "life itself."

Hancock, who is 73, recently received the Kennedy Center Honors Award. At the ceremony, Snoop Dogg performed the rap to Us3's "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)" – a track that sampled Hancock's 1964 track "Cantaloupe Island" – and praised the jazz musician by saying Hancock had "invented hip-hop."

Over the course of his career – in which Hancock has played avariety of musical styles with artists like Davis, Wes Montgomery, Joni Mitchell and Carlos Santana – he has won 15 Grammys and, in 1986, a Best Original Score Oscar for his Round Midnight soundtrack.

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