The Kennedy Center Honors were awarded on Sunday to actress Shirley MacLaine, piano man Billy Joel, guitarist Carlos Santana, jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and opera singer Martina Arroyo. The annual event to honor stars of stage, screen and concert hall feted the winners with a speech by President Barack Obama and others according to Yahoo! News on Dec. 8.
In a ceremony held at the White House prior to the show, President Barack Obama said, "The diverse group of extraordinary individuals we honor today haven't just proven themselves to be the best of the best. Despite all their success, all their fame, they've remained true to themselves - and inspired the rest of us to do the same."
Santana, a 10-time Grammy winner was the first to be honored. Singer Harry Belafonte, a past Kennedy Center honoree, joked that Santana had taken his spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
It was Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor who introduced opera singer Arroyo. As the first Hispanic member of the nation's highest court, Sotomayor was in a unique position to understand the battles Arroyo faced in her climb to the top. She said of Arroyo, “Martina faced an uphill battle," Sotomayor said. "She never gave up."
Rapper Snoop Dogg performed a rap tribute to Herbie Hancock. From the stage, Snoop shouted out, “Hey, Herbie, you know we love you, baby. Thank you for creating Hip Hop!"
MacLaine, the only actress among this year’s honorees, won an Oscar for the part she played in 1983’s "Terms of Endearment.” Now she and her brother, Warren Beatty, are both recipients of the award.
However, the most emotional moment of the event occurred during the tribute to singer/composer/musician Billy Joel. Garth Brooks sang Joel’s song “Goodnight Saigon.” During the performance, Brooks was joined by a group of Vietnam veterans who helped him sing the lyrics "And we would all go down together." At the end, they saluted Joel who saluted back.
His songs were called the ‘soundtrack for the lives of generations of Americans.’ Afterwards, Joel said "It's a little overwhelming."
When Joel was asked to pick a favorite song or album, Joel evaded the question, saying only that he liked them all. He likened them to his children adding it would be impossible to pick just one as a favorite.
The evening closed with a rendition of Joel’s famous hit "Piano Man." Those in attendance at the Kennedy Center sang along.
The show will be televised on Dec. 29 on CBS.
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