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44th Annual Kennedy Center Honorees, Including Bette Midler, Berry Gordy, Joni Mitchell, More, Celebrated December 5 Print-ready version

Recipients are honored during a celebration of the arts to be filmed for subsequent TV broadcast.

by Andrew Gans
Playbill
December 5, 2021

2021 Kennedy Center honorees clockwise from top left: Lorne Michaels, Bette Midler, Berry Gordy, Joni Mitchell, and Justino Díaz Photo by Scott Suchman/CBS)

Stage and screen star Bette Midler, most recently on Broadway in a Tony-winning turn as Dolly Gallagher Levi in the revival of Hello, Dolly!, is one of the five honorees to receive the 44th Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime artistic achievements.

This year's recipients also include operatic bass-baritone Justino Díaz; Motown founder, songwriter, producer, and director Berry Gordy; Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels; and singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.

The honorees received their medallions at a December 4 ceremony presented by Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein and hosted by 2021 honoree Debbie Allen at the Library of Congress with Secretary of State Antony Blinken serving as honorary chair.

The recipients are being celebrated December 5 at the Kennedy Center Opera House in an evening produced by Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment. The Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on CBS December 22.

"The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates luminaries whose art and creativity have enriched us beyond measure," stated Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein in an earlier statement. "With his distinguished, deeply resonant voice and storied operatic career, Justino Díaz, stood on the stages of the world's great opera houses and today stands as one of the greatest bass-baritones of our time; visionary music producer and songwriter Berry Gordy brought the quintessential soulfulness of Detroit into every home in America, elevating the Motown sound to become a national treasure; Lorne Michaels created the most enduring 'must-see television' with Saturday Night Live, a show that is both mirror and muse for life in America; an artistic tour de force and America's Divine Miss M, Bette Midler has enjoyed an unrivaled and prolific career, entertaining millions with her wondrous voice and trademark comedic wit; and songstress Joni Mitchell, blends raw, deeply personal lyrics with her stunningly ethereal voice in 19 albums, becoming one of the most influential singer-songwriters and cultural figures in 20th-century popular music."

"This year's Honorees represent the unifying power of the Arts and surely remind us of that which binds us together as human beings. These artists are equal parts genius, inspiration, and entertainment," added Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. "After the challenges and heartbreak of the last many months, and as we celebrate 50 years of the Kennedy Center, I dare add that we are prepared to throw 'the party to end all parties' in D.C. on December 5th, feting these extraordinary people and welcoming audiences back to our campus. We look forward to shaping an even more exciting Honors program and broadcast with CBS and the producers based on the success and newfound innovations of our 43rd Honors earlier this year."

The recipients are recognized for their contributions to American culture through the performing arts - whether in music, dance, theatre, opera, motion pictures, or television - and are confirmed by the Executive Committee of the Center's Board of Trustees.

Last year's honorees included Tony nominee Allen, Tony winner Dick Van Dyke, singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez, country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks, and violinist Midori.

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Added to Library on December 5, 2021. (1175)

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