The Kennedy Center Honors is an annual honor given to those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture (regardless of their citizenship). The honors have been presented annually since 1978, culminating each December in a star-studded gala celebrating the honorees in the Kennedy Center Opera House.
|Kennedy Center Honors|
Logotype symbolizing "a spectrum of many skills within the performing arts"
|Awarded for||Lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts.|
|Presented by||Board of Trustees of the Kennedy Center|
|Website||Kennedy Center Honors|
George Stevens Jr. created the Kennedy Center Honors with the late Nick Vanoff, and produced the first gala in 1978. He was the producer and co-writer through the 2014 awards, after which he sold the production rights to the Kennedy Center.
The Kennedy Center Honors started in 1977, after that year's 10th-anniversary White House reception and Kennedy Center program for the American Film Institute (AFI). Roger L. Stevens, the founding chairman of the Kennedy Center, asked George Stevens, Jr., (no relation), the founding director of the AFI, to hold an event for the Center. George Stevens asked Isaac Stern to become involved, and then "pitched" the idea to the television network CBS, who "bought it." With the announcement of the first honors event and honorees, CBS vice president for specials Bernie Sofronski stated:
George [Stevens] came to us with this. What turned us on is that this is the only show of its kind. In Europe and most countries, they have ways of honoring their actors and their athletes. England has its command performances for the queen. We see this as a national honoring of people who have contributed to society, not someone who happens to have a pop record hit at the moment ... Our intention is not to do just another award show. We're going to make an effort in terms of a real special.
The first host was Leonard Bernstein in 1978, followed by Eric Sevareid in 1979 and Beverly Sills in 1980. Walter Cronkite hosted from 1981 to 2002 and Caroline Kennedy hosted from 2003 until 2012. Glenn Close hosted in 2013 and Stephen Colbert hosted from 2014 to 2016. There was no formal host in 2017, though Caroline Kennedy delivered an introduction. In 2018, Gloria Estefan hosted.
Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment were selected as Executive Producers of the 38th annual Kennedy Center Honors (2015) after George Stevens, Jr. stepped down.
This is one of the few awards shows that does not air live (with the exception of closed-circuit venues), but a re-edited version lasting approximately two hours is normally televised on CBS after Christmas.
Honoree recommendations are accepted from the general public, and the Kennedy Center initiated a Special Honors Advisory Committee, which comprises two members of the Board of Trustees as well as past Honorees and distinguished artists. The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees selects the Honoree recipients based on excellence in music, dance, theater, opera, motion pictures or television. The selections are typically announced sometime between July and September.
The invitation-only weekend-long ceremony includes the Chairman's Luncheon, State Department dinner, White House reception, and the Honors gala performances and supper.
Surrounded by the Honorees, the luncheon is held on Saturday at the Kennedy Center, with a welcoming speech by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. At that evening's reception and dinner at the State Department, presided over by the Secretary of State, the Honorees are introduced and the Honors medallions are presented by the Chairman of the Board. The wide rainbow-colored ribbon then hung around the necks of the recipients, and prominently noticeable when the events are televised, symbolizes "a spectrum of many skills within the performing arts" according to creator Ivan Chermayeff.
On Sunday, there is an early-evening White House reception hosted by the President of the United States and the First Lady, followed by the Honors gala performance at the Kennedy Center and supper.
For the 2015 gala performance, President Barack Obama did attend, after addressing the nation in a live telecast. There have been four occasions where the President did not attend the gala performances: President Jimmy Carter did not attend the December 1979 gala performance during the hostage crisis, President George H.W. Bush did not attend in December 1989 and President Bill Clinton did not attend in 1994.
On August 19, 2017, the White House announced that President Donald Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, had decided not to participate in events honoring recipients of the 2017 Kennedy Center Honors awards to "allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction." President and Mrs. Trump did not attend the 2017 ceremony, held on December 3, 2017. Caroline Kennedy was the hostess and presented the honorees. The traditional dinner at the State Department on the Saturday evening before the ceremony was hosted by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the White House reception was canceled.
There have been 217 recipients to date of the Kennedy Center Honors Awards during the Honor's 40 years (as of 2018), although the one given to Bill Cosby in 1998 was rescinded in 2018, following his sexual assault conviction. The vast majority have been bestowed on individuals. On ten occasions since 1985, awards have been presented to duos or groups, including three married couples who were actors: Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. The dancers Fayard Nicholas and Harold Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers were honored, along with three musical theater songwriting duos: Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and John Kander and Fred Ebb. The musicians of three rock groups were also awarded: Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh and (posthumously) Glenn Frey of the Eagles.
The 2018 award ceremony presented the honor, for the first time, to the creators of the musical Hamilton: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Andy Blankenbuehler and Alex Lacamoire for "trailblazing creators of a transformative work that defies category."
When considering Irving Berlin for the 1987 awards because of criticism for overlooking him, the Center was informed that Berlin wanted to be honored only if he surpassed his 100th birthday (which would not be until May 1988). Also, he was in failing health, used a wheelchair following a series of strokes, and could not attend a public event. The Center instead chose to pay special tribute to him at the 1987 Gala. He died in 1989.
Paul McCartney was selected as an honoree in 2002, but was unable to attend because of an "inescapable personal obligation," his cousin's previously planned wedding. After initially saying that McCartney's award would be postponed until the following year, the Kennedy Center announced in August 2003 that "Paul McCartney will not be receiving a Kennedy Center Honor." McCartney later became a 2010 honoree.
Mel Brooks has stated that he refused the honor when George W. Bush was in office, due to his distaste for Bush's Iraq policy, but Brooks was an honoree in 2009, the first year Barack Obama was President.
In November 2015, one month before the actual ceremony, the Eagles postponed their honors until the following year because Glenn Frey had intestinal problems that required major surgery and a long recovery period. Despite their absence, they were still honored in 2015 via a performance of "Desperado" by country singer Miranda Lambert. Glenn Frey died on January 18, 2016, though the Center made him and the three surviving members 2016 honorees.
In 2017, Norman Lear announced that he would accept the honors, but would boycott the White House ceremony because of his opposition to President Donald Trump, citing Trump's proposal to end the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Lear did attend the 2017 events and ceremony, but Donald and Melania Trump were not present, becoming the first U.S. presidential couple to skip the event, in order "to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction".
Mrs. Carter: 'As you know President Carter has had to cancel his public appearances.'
"(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" is a 1967 single released by American soul singer Aretha Franklin on the Atlantic label. The song was co-written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, with input from Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler. Written for Franklin, the record was a big hit reaching number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, and became one of her signature songs. It made history in the UK singles chart a week after her death, finally becoming a hit almost 51 years after it was first released entering at #79. Franklin also included a live recording on the album Aretha in Paris in 1968. Carole King has performed and recorded a version of the song along with Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion, and many others. At the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, Aretha Franklin performed the song to honor award-recipient Carole King.Chita Rivera
Chita Rivera (born January 23, 1933) is an American actress, dancer, and singer best known for her roles in musical theatre. She is the first Hispanic woman and the first Latino American to receive a Kennedy Center Honors award (December 2002). She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.Emily Estefan
Emily Marie Consuelo Estefan (born December 5, 1994) is an American music artist. She is the daughter of producer Emilio Estefan and the Cuban singer Gloria Estefan. She has produced and directed her own debut album Take Whatever You Want.George Stevens Jr.
George Cooper Stevens Jr. (born April 3, 1932) is an American writer, author, playwright, director and producer. He is the founder of the American Film Institute, creator of the AFI Life Achievement Award and instigator/producer of the Kennedy Center Honors. Since 2009 he has served as Co-Chairman of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Accolades to date for his professional career include seventeen Emmys, eight Writers Guild awards, two Peabody Awards, the Humanitas Prize and an Honorary Academy Award.Glenn Weiss
Glenn Weiss (born 1961) is an American producer and director of television and live events. He has won 14 Emmy Awards and six Directors Guild of America awards as a director and producer for various awards shows and reality shows including the Tony Awards, Kennedy Center Honors, and Academy Awards.I'll Go Crazy (James Brown song)
"I'll Go Crazy" is a rhythm and blues song recorded by James Brown and The Famous Flames. Released as a single in 1960, it was Brown's fourth R&B hit, charting at #15. Brown and the Flames also performed it as the first song on their 1963 album Live at the Apollo.
The Live at the Apollo performance of "I'll Go Crazy" was released as the B-side of a single in 1966, backed with "Lost Someone" (also from the live album). It charted #38 R&B and #73 Pop.This live version was the last song featuring The Famous Flames to chart.
"I'll Go Crazy" has inspired cover versions by many different artists, including The Rolling Stones, The Kingsmen, the Blues Magoos, The Residents, The Moody Blues, The Buckinghams, Chris Isaak, Jerry Garcia and David Grisman, Buddy Guy, The Nighthawks, Tommy Quickly, Graham Bonnet, The Honeycombs live in Tokyo, and Clarence Clemons. Tommy James and the Shondells released a cover version of the song on their debut album, Hanky Panky. It was performed by Dan Aykroyd in the actor's tribute to Brown on his induction at the 2003 Kennedy Center Honors.
This song was used on the Late Show with David Letterman as theme music for the "Who Said It?" segment.Jerry Herman
Jerry Herman (born July 10, 1931) is an American composer and lyricist, known for his work in Broadway musical theater. He composed the scores for the hit Broadway musicals Hello, Dolly!, Mame, and La Cage aux Folles. He has been nominated for the Tony Award five times, and won twice, for Hello, Dolly! and La Cage aux Folles. In 2009, Herman received the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. He is a recipient of the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors.List of awards and nominations received by Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band who were active from 1968–1980. They are widely considered to be one of the most powerful, innovative, successful, and influential bands in the history of rock music. Led Zeppelin have sold over 300 million albums worldwide, including 111.5 million certified units in the United States, making them one of the world's best-selling music artists in history, as well as the second best selling band of all time in the United States.List of awards and nominations received by Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein, an American composer and conductor, won several Grammy Awards and Tony Awards over his lifetime. His awards are both for his conducting and his compositions.Mark Twain Prize for American Humor
The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor is an American award presented by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts annually since 1998. Named after the 19th century novelist, essayist, and humorist Mark Twain, it is presented to individuals who have "had an impact on American society in ways similar to" Twain. The JFK Center chose Twain due to his status as a controversial social commentator and his "uncompromising perspective of social injustice and personal folly." A copy of Karl Gerhardt's 1884 bust of Twain is presented in an autumn ceremony taped in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in Washington, D.C., during which the honoree is celebrated by his or her peers. The event is a significant fundraiser to benefit the Kennedy Center, which sells tickets as well as access to dinners and after-parties featuring the celebrities.
The inaugural recipient of the award was comedian Richard Pryor. The first two years of The Mark Twain Prize (Richard Pryor and Jonathan Winters) were taped and broadcast on Comedy Central. Since then, the award presentations have been taped for broadcast on PBS. The youngest recipient was actress and comedian Tina Fey, at age 40 in 2010. Bill Cosby accepted his award at the Kennedy Center in 2009. He had twice refused the honor, stating that he was disappointed with the profanity used in the inaugural ceremony honoring Richard Pryor. After Cosby was convicted of sexual assault in 2018, the center stripped Cosby of his award and his 1998 Kennedy Center Honors. As of 2018, 20 individuals have received the honor, six women and 14 men.Michael Stevens (producer)
Michael Stevens (November 21, 1966 – October 15, 2015) was an American producer, writer and director who won seven Emmy Awards.Starting in 2002, he was the writer and producer of the annual Kennedy Center Honors. His productions of the TV special of the Honors event secured the show an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Special in five consecutive years – 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 – winning the award in the latter three years.His other work included writing and/or producing and/or directing many live events and TV productions including multiple productions of the annual Christmas in Washington TV special, several presentations of the AFI's The American Film Institute Salutes… specials and HBO's inaugural celebration in 2009 for President Barack Obama.Ossie Davis
Ossie Davis (born Raiford Chatman Davis; December 18, 1917 – February 4, 2005) was an American film, television and Broadway actor, director, poet, playwright, author, and civil rights activist.He was married to Ruby Dee, with whom he frequently performed with, until his death in 2005.He and his wife were named to the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame; were awarded the National Medal of Arts and were recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors. He was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1994.Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Direction
The Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Direction is awarded to one television series or special each year.
In the following list, the first titles listed in gold are the winners; those not in gold are nominees, which are listed in alphabetical order. The years given are those in which the ceremonies took place.Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)
The Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded) is a category at the Primetime Emmy Awards. It is awarded annually to the singularly best pre-recorded varietal, musical or comedic special of the year. It was previously presented as Outstanding Variety Special until it was restructured alongside Outstanding Special Class Program for the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards.The Kennedy Center Honors has won seven awards, including five consecutive wins from 2009 to 2013. It also won twice for Outstanding Variety Series when the two categories were combined.United States Army Field Band
The United States Army Field Band of Washington, D.C. is a touring musical organization of the United States Army. It performs more than 400 concerts per year and has performed in all 50 states of the United States and in 25 countries. It is the most traveled musical organization of the United States military. Stationed at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, the Army Field Band consists of four performing components: The Concert Band, The Soldiers' Chorus, the Jazz Ambassadors, and The Six String Soldiers.
Every four years, the Band leads the first element of the Presidential Inaugural Parade. It has also appeared at The Kennedy Center Honors, three World Series, the Baltimore Orioles' annual home finale, the 1995 Presidential Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of V-J Day, the 40th Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, the National Memorial Day Concert, the state funerals of Presidents Reagan and Ford, and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.University of Nebraska Cornhusker Marching Band
The University of Nebraska Cornhusker Marching Band (also known as the Marching Red or The Pride of All Nebraska) is the marching band of the University of Nebraska and is part of the Glenn Korff School of Music with the Hixson–Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts. It performs at all home football games. Founded in 1879, the Marching Red is one of the oldest and best-known collegiate marching bands in the United States. The band consists of 300 students from over 60 different academic majors from across the campus. Thanks to the success of the Husker football program, the Marching Red is also one of the most traveled bands in the country having participated in all of the major bowl games. They have appeared multiple times at the Rose, Fiesta, Orange, Sugar, Cotton, Sun, and Alamo Bowls, and have made single appearances at the Bluebonnet, Liberty, Holiday, Citrus, Independence and Gator Bowls. On November 19, 2011, the Cornhusker Marching Band performed at Michigan Stadium in front of the largest audience ever to watch the band.
The Cornhusker Band has also made several international tours, visiting continental Europe and Ireland. The Cornhusker Marching Band has been the recipient of many honors over the years, including the John Philip Sousa Foundation's Sudler Trophy in 1996. The Sudler Trophy is presented biannually to a college marching band program that has demonstrated particular excellence over a period of years. A ballot of all NCAA marching band directors selects the trophy recipient. The Marching Red has been seen by millions of viewers on television, and appeared on the Kennedy Center stage as part of the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony. In 2005 the band was featured on the NBC prime time series Tommy Lee Goes to College and in 2007 on ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
On October 13, 2007, a film crew from the comedy film, Yes Man, starring Jim Carrey filmed portions of the movie at Memorial Stadium including several shots of the marching band.Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award
The Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, instituted in 2012 during the 46th CMA Awards, is given by the Country Music Association. The presentation of the award is intended to "honor an iconic artist who has attained the highest degree of recognition in Country Music (that) achieved both national and international prominence and stature through concert performances, humanitarian efforts, philanthropy, record sales, and public representation at the highest level", with the condition that the recipient "must have positively impacted and contributed to the growth of the genre over time".The award, first presented to Willie Nelson, and named after him, was designed by Chicago manufacturer R.S. Owens & Company. The trophy was built resembling the "bullet shape" of a regular CMA award, formed by two aluminum struts that support a bronze medallion on top, with the entire structure attached to a walnut base.
Kennedy Center Honorees