The Kennedy Center Honors has returned to tradition this year with a real-life gala and the presence of the President for the first time since 2016. This year’s event at the Kennedy Center’s main opera house represented a return to political normalcy, with President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden attending. The Bidens drew a sustained standing ovation when they entered the presidential box at the opera house. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed the national anthem and encouraged the audience to sing the final lines together.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts celebrated the following 44th Honorees for lifetime artistic achievements: operatic bass-baritone Justino Díaz; Motown founder, songwriter, producer, and director Berry Gordy; Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels; legendary stage and screen icon Bette Midler; and singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.
“The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates luminaries whose art and creativity have enriched us beyond measure,” stated Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein. “With his distinguished, deeply resonant voice and storied operatic career, Justino Díaz, stood on the stages of the world’s great opera houses and today stands as one of the greatest bass-baritones of our time; visionary music producer and songwriter Berry Gordy brought the quintessential soulfulness of Detroit into every home in America , elevating the Motown sound to become a national treasure; Lorne Michaels created the most enduring ‘must-see television’ with Saturday Night Live, a show that is both mirror and muse for life in America; an artistic tour de force and America’s Divine Miss M, Bette Midler has enjoyed an unrivaled and prolific career, entertaining millions with her wondrous voice and trademark comedic wit; and songstress Joni Mitchell, blends raw, deeply personal lyrics with her stunningly ethereal voice in 19 albums, becoming one of the most influential singer-songwriters and cultural figures in 20th-century popular music.”
CBS will present The 44th Annual Kennedy Center Honors, hosted by Emmy® Award-winning television host, comedian, writer, and producer David Letterman, broadcasting Wednesday, December 22 from 8:00-10:00 PM, CST, on the CBS Television Network, and available to stream live and on-demand on the CBS app, and Paramount+.
Motown Founder Berry Gordy’s career was celebrated with performances of multiple Motown hits by Andra Day and Stevie Wonder and an extended tribute from close friend Smokey Robinson. The event ended with several of the night’s performers joining for a performance of Wonder’s hit “Higher Ground.”
Prior to the Kennedy Center event, Biden revived another tradition that had gone dormant under Trump and held a White House reception for the honorees.
“We welcome everyone back,” Biden told a crowd of about 150 seated in the East Room, decked out with Christmas trees and wreaths. Guests included Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Caroline Kennedy, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Chita Rivera, Steve Martin and Herbie Hancock.
Celebrate the 44th Honorees, meet this season’s phenomenal artists, view the event, and/or watch amazing performances from past shows anytime on the Kennedy Center website: https://www.kennedy-center.org/