Herbie Hancock ’60 has been named the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University. The jazz great — who played with Miles Davis in his youth and has influenced innumerable styles of music — will give six lectures as part of the Charles Eliot Norton Lecture Series.
Hancock is the latest in a long line of Norton Professors that includes T. S. Eliot, Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Frank Stella, and John Cage. Hancock’s lecture series, entitled The Ethics of Jazz, will cover topics such as the wisdom of Miles Davis, the relationship between Buddhism and creativity, and cultural diplomacy.
Homi Bhabha, director of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard, said of Hancock, “His unsurpassed contribution to the history of music has revolutionized our understanding of the ways in which the arts transform our civic consciousness and our spiritual aspirations. It would be no exaggeration to say that he has defined cultural innovation in each decade of the last half century.”
In addition to his professorship at Harvard, Hancock is also the Carolyn and Bill Powers Creative Chair for Jazz at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Institute chairman at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, and an ambassador to the United Nations Organization for Education, Science, and Culture. He was honored in December by the Kennedy Center for his contributions to American culture.