Herbie Hancock received the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Medal from the Royal Society for the Arts on December 4 at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The multi-Grammy Award-winner was recognized for his long lifetime of creative achievements and humanitarian efforts.
“It’s a great privilege to be receiving the Benjamin Franklin Medal on behalf of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce and it’s a tremendous honor to be joining the list of previous recipients who are working tirelessly to make the world more just – more safe – more humane,” noted Hancock via an official statement.
The 264-year-old Royal Society for the Arts, based in London, includes Franklin as a founding fellow and initiated the Benjamin Franklin medal in 1956 to honor people who transcend their vocation to generally benefit mankind. Hancock is the first musician to receive the medal. Previous winners include naturalist Sir David Attenborough, actress Dame Judi Dench and architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.
In a statement, the organization 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 catalog 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.”
Since 2013, the Ben Franklin Medal has been administered by the American arm of the Royal Society, RSA US. The ceremony is usually staged where there are clusters of RSA fellow. This year’s ceremony featured bassist Christian McBride, pianist Harold O’Neal and the University of Pennsylvania jazz band in tribute Hancock. “[Hancock] is an American icon – at this point, we can escalate that to world icon,” said McBride.
Feature photo by Douglas Kirkland.
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