Award-winning musician and composer Herbie Hancock is the bedrock of the sound of modern jazz during the last decades of the 20th century.
His influence on traditional post-bop, fusion, pop music, R&B, disco, hip-hop, electronica and more will be recognized this week when the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce gives Hancock the 2018 Benjamin Franklin Medal.
“It’s a great privilege to be receiving the Benjamin Franklin Medal on behalf of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and it’s a tremendous honor to be joining the prestigious list of previous recipients who are working tirelessly to make the world more just — more safe — more humane,” noted Hancock.
In a statement, the 264-year-old organization which includes Franklin as a founding fellow, said: “Herbie Hancock’s lifetime of commitment to music is a singular artistic achievement.
Like Franklin, Hancock has been a constant experimenter. His creativity and curiosity has delivered an outstanding catalogue of music that has won him an Oscar and 14 Grammy awards.
But beyond that, he has always championed jazz as what he describes as an ‘international language,’ a way to re-affirm our fundamental humanity. His music, and his message, have not just crossed the Atlantic, but encircled the world.”
The pioneering pianist, keyboardist, synthesist, composer, arranger, producer and bandleader’s talents are emblematic of the Buddhist principles of inclusion and collaboration that course through the ebb and flow of his career.
“When I started to think about all the different aspects of myself, that kind of epiphany changed the way I looked at everything, is a result of my Buddhist practice,” explained Hancock. “Buddhism teaches that human beings are multi-dimensional and have infinite potential.”
Hancock’s 1983 Grammy-award-winning single “Rockit” from the album “Future Shock” is hailed as the jazz hip-hop song that became the soundtrack for breakdancers and hip-hop in the 1980s.
“That was a future shock for me,” laughed Hancock in recalling the era. “It was kind of underground at the time and then it just blew up. Today, hip-hop is huge and pervasive throughout the whole world. When hip-hop was young and ‘Rockit’ was already out I went to Bali. I heard rappers not only in the Indonesian language but they were rapping in Balinese, the native language.”
The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce will present Hancock the organization’s 2018 Benjamin Franklin Medal at an evening ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 4 at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. The event will feature Christian McBride, Harold O’Neal and the University of Pennsylvania jazz band in tribute to Hancock.