Eminent artists, friends and peers of this year’s five honorees gathered in Washington, D.C. to present entertaining and heartfelt tributes at THE 37TH ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS, an entertainment special to be broadcast Tuesday, Dec. 30 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. The 2014 honorees are singer Al Green, actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks, ballerina Patricia McBride, singer-songwriter Sting and comedienne Lily Tomlin. George Stevens, Jr. and Michael Stevens are the producers.
The annual event recognizes recipients for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures and television. In keeping with tradition, the roster of performers and presenters remained secret prior to the gala, and a short biographical film was featured during each honoree's tribute.
Performers and presenters included Jared Angle, Christine Baranski, Laura Benanti, Jeffrey Cirio, Misty Copeland, Earth, Wind & Fire, Jane Fonda, Lady Gaga, Whoopi Goldberg, Herbie Hancock, Jennifer Hudson, Garrison Keillor, David Letterman, Lauren Lovette, Jane Lynch, Bruno Mars, Reba McEntire, Kate McKinnon, Sam Moore, Jessie Mueller, Kelli O’Hara, Tiler Peck, Pentatonix, Martin Short, Esperanza Spalding, Steven Spielberg, Bruce Springsteen, Mavis Staples, Meryl Streep and Usher.
Academy Award, Emmy Award, Grammy Award and Tony Award-winning actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg introduced the tribute to multiple Grammy Award-winning soul singer Al Green, stating, “There’s something in the songs written and performed by Al Green that makes you believe in a higher power, because they soar above just about what anybody else can do. There’s something in the gospel sound that Al Green returned to that makes you understand the dual meaning of ‘soul’ music. So never has anyone made soul music more inclusive.”
The musical portion of the tribute to Al Green commenced with a vibrant medley of songs, including “I Can’t Get Next to You” and “Love & Happiness,” performed by the multiple Grammy Award-winning band Earth, Wind & Fire. Next, Academy Award, Golden Globe and Grammy Award-winning singer and actress Jennifer Hudson sang “Simply Beautiful,” followed by a smooth rendition of “Let’s Stay Together” by multiple Grammy Award-winning singer Usher. Finally, Grammy Award-winning R&B singers Mavis Staples and Sam Moore gave the audience a rousing rendition of “Take Me to the River,” which concluded the performances honoring Al Green.
Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress Christine Baranski paid tribute to renowned ballerina Patricia McBride. “From her dark eyes and porcelain skin down to her impossibly pointed arch… she was ‘the One.’ The One in Red, the One in Pink, the One you could not take your eyes off of. Her dancing had the precocity of a carefree child, or the ferocity of a linebacker. The elasticity of a rubber Gumby, the lightness of a sparrow in flight. There was her blazing partnership with Edward Villella, but she also danced with the great Jacques D’amboise and the legendary Mikhail Baryshnikov. She was the muse of two of the 20th century’s greatest choreographers: Balanchine and Robbins… all of these names are Kennedy Center honorees. Tonight, at long last, she joins their company.”