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George Clooney, U2, Gladys Knight Among Next Kennedy Center Honorees

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Irish rock band U2, actor/director George Clooney, singers Gladys Knight and Amy Grant, and composer-conductor Tanya Leon will be honored for their achievements in the arts at the 45th Annual Kennedy Center Awards on December 4 at the National Arts Center.

The Sunday night performance is the highlight of the weekend, which includes a private dinner where the distinctive rainbow medals are presented and a fundraising gala for thousands after the show at the Opera House. The play — with its top-secret guest cast — will air later on CBS.

The 2022 honorees represent the best in the entertainment world, said Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter, but they also used their talents to inspire change.

“In each case, these are artists who do more than just performers. They are artists as citizens who give back and make the world a better place through art,” Rutter said, citing the charitable, humanitarian and educational contributions of each. “This is art for life. These artists are a mirror of who we are.”

Knight’s Choice wins this year’s “Why are you taking so long?” category, the eternal question for the selection committee, Rutter said.

“There are a lot of people on ‘What’s taking so long?’ list. That’s why it’s so difficult. There are so many deserving artists out there,” Rutter said.

Inside the covid Kennedy Center Honors building

Knight, 78, performed a knockout rendition of Garth Brooks’ “We Shall Be Free” at last year’s country music awards.

“I had a lot of fun with this performance. I was so excited that they thought about making me a part of it,” Knight said by phone on Wednesday. She expressed her gratitude for being included in the latest list of laureates, especially with such rich music.

“To be honest, I like all kinds of music. I always go to country and gospel music,” said Knight, who led a 2002 charity event at the Kennedy Center for the American Diabetes Association, one of the charities she supports.

Knight was born in Georgia and began singing in the youth choir of her Baptist church when she was 4 years old. She was still a child when she won the top prize on Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour, and 16 years old when she and her brother Bubba, sister Brenda and two cousins ​​released their first record called Pips. Two years later, the group became known as Gladys Knight and the Pips.

The Empress of the Soul has released 38 records and won seven Grammy Awards in her seventh-decade career. Her biggest hits include “I Heard It Through the Vine”, “If I Were Your Woman” and “Midnight Train to Georgia”. In 1996, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

According to Knight, the awards made her remember her amazing journey in music and the contributions of her late mother.

“She chose all or most of the music I made,” she said. “My mother also knew how to sing. She’ll go straight to where we rehearsed. She listened to every little thing.”

Watch highlights from the 43rd Annual Kennedy Center Awards

U2 members Bono (Paul David Hewson), Edge (David Howell Evans), Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. met as teenagers and have been performing together since 1976. Known worldwide for their popular stadium tours, the band has released 14 studio albums. and won 22 Grammys. U2 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. The group supported human rights efforts around the world and participated in campaigns against AIDS, poverty and cancer.

The band first performed in the US in 1980.

“We had big dreams back then, fueled in part by the widespread belief that America was smiling at Ireland,” the band members said in a statement released by the arts center. “But even in our wildest thoughts, we never thought that 40 years later we would be invited again to receive one of the country’s greatest awards… It was a four-decade romance with the country and its people, its artists and culture. We consider America our home away from home, and we are very grateful to the Kennedy Center Awards for inviting us into this great clan of outstanding artists.”

Clooney, 61, got his start in television, gaining fame for his role as heartthrob doctor Doug Ross on ER. He has won two Oscars, five Golden Globes and an Emmy as a performer and producer and is known worldwide for his work on films such as the Ocean series, Out of Sight, Oh Where Art Thou brother” and “Good Night and Good Luck.” In 2016, Clooney and his wife Amal created the Clooney Foundation for Justice to fight for human rights around the world.

“Growing up in a small town in Kentucky, I never imagined that I would ever be sitting on a balcony at the Kennedy Center with honors. To be mentioned in the same breath as the rest of these incredible artists is a great honor. This is a truly exciting surprise for the entire Clooney family,” Clooney said in a statement.

Grant, 61, a six-time Grammy winner, has a musical career spanning over 40 years and includes singles that have topped the pop, adult and contemporary Christian charts. Her biggest hits include “Baby Baby” and “The Next Time I Fall”, a duet with Peter Cetera, and a series of popular Christmas albums. She is the first contemporary Christian genre musician to be honored by the Kennedy Center.

“It’s like acknowledging American culture and it’s very different from everything else,” Grant said by phone Wednesday. “Looks like thin air.”

The grant supports many charities, including St. Jude Children’s Hospital, MusiCares, Nashville Symphony, and Nashville Rescue Mission. She lives in Nashville with her husband, country musician Vince Gill, who performed at the Merle Haggard (2010) and Eagles (2016) awards. When the call came from the Kennedy Center—Grant was in London with his daughter to watch Gill perform with the Eagles—she thought the arts center was offering him an award.

“He is the most gifted musician I have ever known. I felt so humiliated that I received this honor, because the man next to whom I lay down and sleep every night, he … wow, ”she said. “I need to tell you something and that’s it when I told him [about the honor] he opened his arms and I got on his lap and wept and he said, “I’m so proud of you.” ”

Kennedy Center Honors 2021: A Toast to Tradition

Recognized as an ambassador for new music, Leon is an award-winning composer, conductor and teacher, a founding member of the Harlem Dance Theater and a lifelong advocate for living classical music composers.

The 79-year-old musician was surprised to hear of such an honor.

“It’s a bit overwhelming. It’s kind of a surprise when you say, “What?” she said. “Of course, when it hits you, you start making a movie in your head about everything that you have done, remembering the people who are no longer around, those who supported you from the very beginning, starting with your grandparents” .

Leon’s grandmother enrolled her in music lessons when she was a small child in Cuba. The classically trained pianist left for Miami in 1967 at the age of 24 to pursue a career as a concert pianist. She quickly moved to New York and on her first trip to Harlem to fill in for a friend who accompanied ballet classes there, she met the famous dancer Arthur Mitchell. She left this concert with an invitation to work on his next project, which was the Harlem Dance Theater.

“I had no idea who he was, I just enjoyed playing the piano,” said Leon, who became the band’s music director. “This is how life surprises you. I still don’t know how it happened.”

Mitchell encouraged her to write music and put dance on her first composition. Leon was New Music Advisor to the New York Philharmonic in the 1990s, conducted the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra several times, and launched the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s public concert series. She founded Composers Now, an organization that commissions and advocates for living composers. and taught generations of students at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Alumni Center from 1985 until his retirement in 2019.

“I have always been a musician. I shape myself, reinvent myself, create myself. It continues to this day,” she said. “It happens to every person the same way – we keep growing until it’s time to leave.”

Her work “Stride” was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic as part of the Project 19 initiative launched in 2020, which featured 19 works by 19 women to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. He was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

The 2022 Kennedy Center Awards will be hosted by Done+Dusted, creators of the last three Mark Twain Awards. Rutter said the switch from White Cherry, which has produced the show since 2015, is part of an effort to keep it fresh.

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