The Kennedy Center Honors are awarded to performing artists who have achieved high standards of excellence and used their talent to inspire the world around them. The star-studded event will be broadcast Dec. 30, from 9:00 – 11:00 p.m. ET, on CBS. It was originally held on Dec. 7, 2014, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. This marks the 37th annual Kennedy Center Honors and pays tribute to five dedicated performers whose artistic talents highlight the fields of music, ballet, comedy and film.
Lily Tomlin has won over the hearts of children and adults with her portrayal of characters ranging from five-year-old Edith Ann to the condescending telephone operator Ernestine. Both characters were featured regularly on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In after Tomlin joined the cast in 1969. Edith Ann always ended her segment with “and that’s the truth,” and Ernestine always let the audience know the phone was ringing by saying, “one ringy-dingy.” Tomlin was equally at home starring in major motion pictures such as 9 to 5 with Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton. As a director and producer, her work behind the camera encompasses a wide range of subjects from animal rights activism to feminist issues.
Singer Al Green was born into a family of sharecroppers and grew up singing gospel songs. Throughout his career, he alternated between gospel and soul music, winning honors in both categories. He became an ordained minister of a church he had purchased near Graceland in the 1970s while continuing to perform secular music. After he fell off a stage in 1979, he devoted his singing to only religious songs for awhile of standard hymns and gospel. Green was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2004 as a result of his equally successful secular and sacred music career. He was ranked by Rolling Stone in 2004 as one of the top 100 greatest artists of all time.
Sting, whose real name is Gordon Sumner, rose to fame with The Police as the group’s vocalist and bassist, is also a composer, actor, author and activist. He came to the U.S. from England. Although The Police had numerous hit songs, the single, Every Breath You Take, has been played more than 7 million times on American radio. He has had a successful solo career, contributed of movie soundtracks, and appeared on Broadway and in films. In addition, he performs and supports human rights work and environmental protection. The combination of work as a solo artist and a band member have added up to a worldwide total of more than 100 million albums sold. He has received numerous honors and awards including being made a Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
Patricia McBride, principal dancer of the New York City Ballet for 28 years, worked with some of the most famous male dancers in the ballet world. She studied at George Balanchine’s School of the American Ballet and, at the age of 18, became the youngest principal dancer of the New York City Ballet. She had roles choreographed for her by Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. She was Edward Villella’s dance partner for many years, and also danced with Mikhail Baryshnikov and her husband, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux. She gave her farewell performance at Lincoln Center in June, 1989, to a packed, standing-room-only crowd and was showered with an estimated 13,000 roses during a standing ovation. In 1996, McBride became associate artistic director and her husband appointed president and artistic director of the Charlotte Ballet in North Carolina.
Tom Hanks is regarded as one of the most respected and versatile actors. His versatility shows whether he is voicing characters in The Polar Express or Toy Story, talking to a soccer ball in Castaway, unraveling The Da Vinci Code, or in any of his other wide-ranging roles. He was voted No. 1 in a 2013 Reader’s Digest poll as the most trusted person in America. He also is known for his work behind the camera as a director and screenwriter. Among his many honors and awards, he was the youngest recipient of the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the national spokesperson for the World War II Memorial Campaign. He won back-to-back Academy Awards for Best Actor in 1993 and 1994, first for Philadelphia and then Forrest Gump.
The honorees will be sitting with the President of the United States and First Lady as the accolades unfold on stage in speeches and performances. The annual Kennedy Center Honors is a cultural event that pays tribute to the dedication and achievements of performing artists who have broken through such barriers of race, gender, or age. They have also brought their craft to the highest level and serve as inspiration for generations to come.
By Cynthia Collins
Kennedy Center Honors – Lily Tomlin
Kennedy Center Honors – Al Green
Kennedy Center Honors – Tom Hanks
Photo Credit: U.S. Dept. of State