WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Academy Award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman, talk show host David Letterman and rock bank Led Zeppelin are among the seven artists named Kennedy Center Honorees this year, the center said on Wednesday.

Other performers being honored are talk show host David Letterman, bluesman Buddy Guy and ballerina Natalia Makarova, the Kennedy Center said in a statement.

Led Zeppelin, known for such 1970s hits as "Stairway To Heaven," is being recognized as a band but keyboardist and bassist John Paul Jones, singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page will each receive honors.

"With their extraordinary talent, creativity and tenacity, the seven 2012 Kennedy Center Honorees have contributed significantly to the cultural life of our nation and the world," said Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein.

Honorees are recognized by Washington's Kennedy Center for their contributions to American culture through the performing arts. The ceremonies are a highlight of the U.S. capital's cultural season.

The 2012 honorees, with comments from the Kennedy Center statement:

- Hoffman, winner of best actor Oscars for "Rain Man" in 1989 and "Kramer vs Kramer" in 1980, is "one of the most versatile and iconoclastic actors of this or any other generation."

- Guy, a Louisiana-born pioneer of the Chicago blues, "has been a tremendous influence on virtually everyone who has picked up a guitar in the last half century."

- Letterman, the host of CBS' "Late Night with David Letterman," "is one of the most influential personalities in the history of television."

- Makarova, a Soviet-born prima ballerina, has a "profound artistry" that "has ignited the stages of the world's greatest ballet companies."

- Led Zeppelin transformed rock'n'roll "with their lyricism and innovative song structures, infusing blues into the sound of rock and roll and laying the foundation for countless rock bands."

The Kennedy Center Honors Gala will be held on December 2 and recorded for broadcast on CBS on December 26.

The Kennedy Center Honors were created in 1978. Past honorees have included singers Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand and Luciano Pavarotti, actress Carol Burnett, country music singer and songwriter Willie Nelson and talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Doina Chiacu)