Kennedy Center selects Joni Mitchell and Berry Gordy for the award


Final Kennedy Center Honors Aired on Television less than two months agoBut on Wednesday, the institution announced a new batch of honorees, taking a step towards bringing the program back on schedule after the upheaval of the pandemic.

Recipients include folk singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell; stage and screen artist Bette Midler; Motown founder Berry Gordy; Lorne Michaels, producer of “Saturday Night Live”; and opera singer Justino Diaz.

Due to the pandemic, 2020 honors This was delayed until this year and the festivities were not the same as in earlier years, when artists, politicians and other prominent figures packed the opera house. Instead, the ceremony was split over several days, and television producers cobbled together a combination of home tributes and personal performances to be broadcast in June.

This time, the ceremony, scheduled for December 5th, promises to look like the Kennedy Center Honors of old, with the home to capacity, and if all goes well, President Biden in attendance. (President Trump was not a show at the three ceremonies he held during his time in office.)

“It’s going to be the party to end all parties because we haven’t had one for so long,” said Deborah Rutter, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The ceremony will air on CBS, but a date has not been set.

Selected on the recommendation of an advisory committee including Kennedy Center officials and past award recipients, the honorees include two singer-songwriters, Mitchell and Midler, whose careers began in the early 1970s, when they were in their 20s. Were.

Fifty years ago, 77-year-old Michelle released her fourth album, “Blue”, which continued To make a lasting impression on singer-songwriters for decades to come. Mitchell, who helped shape the era of protest music with songs such as “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Woodstock”, said of the honor, “I wish my mom and dad were alive to see it.”

Midler’s debut album, “The Divine Miss Em”, came a year after “Blue” and helped propel her into a career that spanned Broadway, television, and film. Midler, 75, put out more than a dozen studio albums, and “Hello, Dolly!” She had a performance as Dolly Levy in the Broadway revival of earned him a Tony Award For Best Lead Actress in a Musical in 2017.

In Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, the Kennedy Center is honoring the figure behind an entire generation of musical talent. Gordy, now 91, once borrowed $800 from his family to start a record company and then to find and help the careers of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and others Proceeded.

After announcing his retirement two years ago, Gordy said in an interview, he spends most of his time playing golf, tennis and chess.

“Here we are after 60 years and both Diana Ross and the Temptations are coming out with new albums,” he said. “Motown’s legacy continues without me doing anything.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Center’s opening in 1971, more than a decade after President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation creating the National Cultural Center. Shortly after the center’s grand opening, Diaz, then a 31-year-old opera singer, performed as the male lead in Ginestara’s “Beatrix Sensi”. He played a villain and remembers handling two giant mastiffs on stage during your first admission.

Now, at the age of 81, the bass-baritone Diaz, who has performed for opera companies around the world, will return to the Opera House to pay tribute to the artists for their careers.

“A little old me?” He said in an interview. He said that despite his fame in the opera world, he is not a household name.

“Let me say I’m an opera singer,” he said, “and immediately I have to follow up with, ‘No, I’m not Placido Domingo and I’m not Luciano Pavarotti.'”

Rutter said that although the final ceremony was limited by social distancing requirements, there are aspects to it that she wants to maintain. In particular, she said, there was a sense of intimacy in that celebration that wasn’t there before. At one point, she noted, as the performers mingled outside on a terrace, Rhiannon Giddens picked up her banjo, began playing, and Joan Baez began to dance.

“It was comfortable,” Rutter said. “The artists broke their instruments and people started singing and dancing together.”

(It’s unclear whether attendees will be required to wear masks this year, as they will be required to do for the Kennedy Center’s fall programming.)

The 76-year-old Michaels, who created “SNL” in 1975, was also forced by the pandemic to heavily rethink his show. In the spring of 2020, SNL filmed sketches in their actors’ homes, giving viewers a new chance to engage with the cast. Now that they have returned to live audiences, they are thinking of ways to apply what they learned in quarantine.

“Those shows had a strong homemade quality, which was part of their charm,” he said. “Once we went back to the audience, we kept pushing the limits of what we could do.”



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