Gladys Knight, U2, George Clooney among Kennedy Center honorees


Washington — It’s going to be a “Beautiful Day” for U2 and four other artists when they receive this year’s Kennedy Center Honors in December.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced Thursday that the Irish rock band along with actor George Clooney, singers Gladys Knight and Amy Grant and composer Tania León are being honored this year.

The center typically honors five people a year for influencing American culture through the arts. But groups and other groups sometimes get honors too. Disco-funk band Earth, Wind & Fire was the most recent, coming in 2019, the year long-running kids’ TV show “Sesame Street” was honored. The Eagles were honored in 2016 and Led Zeppelin in 2012.

Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said in an interview that her group had “worked really hard to think about, ‘Are we including all the performing arts? “” during the award ceremony. She singled out Grant’s music in particular as a different genre represented in honors this year.

“We’ve had the gospel before. We had a lot of R&B and soul. … We’ve had country music, but we haven’t necessarily had Amy Grant and Christian pop in the same way,” she said, comparing Grant’s inclusion to LL’s center honor. Cool J in 2017, the first time the winners included a hip-hop artist.

This is the 45th year of the honors, which will include a December 4 gala in Washington featuring top performers. The show will air on CBS at a later date.

Rutter said the honor “is not about work that happens to be popular this year. Or a movie. Or a choreography.” It’s “about the accomplishment of a lifetime.”

A look at this year’s winners:


Rutter said she was told U2 frontman Bono was eating and dropped her fork when told the band had been shortlisted for the honour. But it took the band a while to agree because Bono had to convince fellow band members — The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr. — to join and they weren’t all in the same place, said Rutter.

U2 have sold 170 million albums and been honored with 22 Grammys. The band’s epic singles include “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, and “Sunday Bloody Sunday”.

In a statement thanking the Kennedy Center, the band noted that they played their first gig in America in New York in 1980. Their second gig was in Washington.

“We had big dreams then, fueled in part by the widespread belief among us that America smiles on Ireland. And it turned out to be true, again. But even in the wildest thoughts, we never imagined that 40 years later we would be invited back to receive one of the nation’s highest honours,” the band said in a statement, calling the United States a “home away from home.” at home “.

George Clooney

George Clooney poses for photographers as he arrives at the film's premiere

Clooney, who played cunning thief Danny Ocean in “Ocean’s Eleven” and its sequels, won’t need to hatch any kind of scheme to win the Kennedy Center award.

The 61-year-old actor-director won two Oscars – for best supporting actor in ‘Syriana’ and as producer of best picture ‘Argo’ – and starred in films such as ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou ? ” “Up In the Air”, “Michael Collins” and “The Descendants”.

“Growing up in small town Kentucky, I could never have imagined that one day I would be the one sitting on the balcony of the Kennedy Center Honors,” Clooney said in a statement, adding that the honor was a “really exciting surprise”. for all his family.

Clooney and his wife, British human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, have 5-year-old twins. Clooney first came to public prominence on the television series “ER,” in which he played Dr. Doug Ross. His directing credits include “Good Night, and Good Luck”, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”, and “The Tender Bar”.

Gladys Chevalier

Gladys Knight performs at a special screening of

Knight, 78, is the only one of this year’s honorees to have performed at the Kennedy Center Honors. In 2021, the eight-time Grammy winner sang Garth Brooks’ “We Shall Be Free” to honor the country music singer, who wiped her eye and blew kisses after her performance.

Knight – who with her backup band The Pips recorded soul classics such as ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ and ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ – said she never expected to be from the other side of the stage. When she learned that the Kennedy Center wanted to honor her, she said, her response was, “What?”

“I just couldn’t believe it, and here we are,” she said in an interview.

“I love that they thought of me. I don’t take anything like that for granted,” she said.

Knight joined Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Dionne Warwick for the 1985 hit “That’s What Friends Are For.” Wonder was honored by the Kennedy Center in 1999 and John in 2004.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant arrives at the 55th Annual CMA Awards on November 10, 2021 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

Grant, a six-time Grammy winner, has already had a great year. His daughter Millie, who inspired his hit “Baby Baby” in 1991, gave birth to a daughter, Penelope Willow.

The Christian music star has two more grandchildren thanks to her husband’s daughter, country musician Vince Gill.

Grant, 61, said in an interview that when she heard about the Kennedy Center, she first thought it was Gill they wanted to honor. “He has performed several times at the Kennedy Center Honors. I’ve never even been to the ceremony. I was never his plus one,” she said.

The singer – also known for ‘Every Heartbeat’ and ‘That’s What Love is For’ – has her roots in gospel music but found a wider following with the release of her 1991 album ‘Heart in Motion’.

Grant said she currently has two songs she will be recording in the studio, including a Christmas song that will be part of a Hallmark movie. “Like many good songs, it came out of a therapy session,” she said.

Grant said one of the things that currently “energizes me at this point in my life is creating conversation circles to help address issues” such as disenfranchisement and homelessness in his hometown of Nashville. , Tennessee.

Tania Leon

Tania Leon appears at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on February 10, 2013.

Composer and conductor León has worked with the Kennedy Center on several occasions – so, she says, she didn’t think it was “something spectacular” when she received an email to organize a call. She was stunned into the silence when told that the center wanted to honor her.

León, 79, said it was the second time she was “kind of paralyzed” by a phone call. The other was the call to tell her she had won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Music for her orchestral work “Stride.”

Born in Havana, León is a founding member of the Dance Theater of Harlem and has been a guest conductor with orchestras around the world. León said she is currently working on a short solo piece which will premiere next week and an orchestral piece, among others. She’s happy to be busy, she said, explaining that her mantra is “We’re going to be dead for a long time”.

“We have to live fully and do our best while we are alive,” she said.


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