Kennedy Center Announces 2016 Honorees

Jun 23, 2016  •  Post A Comment

Press release from CBS, Thursday, June 23, 2016:

The Kennedy Center Honors announced today that its honorees for 2016 will be Argentine pianist Martha Argerich, rock band the Eagles, screen and stage actor Al Pacino, gospel and blues singer Mavis Staples and musician James Taylor. They will be recognized during THE 39TH ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS, to be broadcast Tuesday, Dec. 27 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT), on the CBS Television Network. CBS has broadcast the special each year since its debut 39 years ago.

“The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates the spectacular talents of artists whose brilliance has left a lasting impact on our society,” stated Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein. “These Honorees represent what is possible when creativity is not just cultivated, but unleashed. Martha Argerich’s distinguished performances have spanned the globe and over the last six decades have earned her world recognition as one of the greatest pianists of the 20th and 21st centuries; the Eagles’ ambitiously themed albums epically merged the American West and rock ‘n’ roll, paving the way for unconventional music makers and artists to come; Al Pacino has embodied some of the most powerful characters of our time on both the stage and silver screen; Mavis Staples’s unmatched gospel and rhythm and blues masterpieces span 60 years and even served as a musical backdrop to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign for civil rights; and James Taylor’s warm baritone and poetic lyrics embody the art of songwriting, making him one of the defining musical figures of our time and his music the soundtrack of our country.”

“Reflecting on the powerful commitments these artists have made to their crafts as well as the cultural contributions they have made over the course of their illustrious careers is a humbling experience,” commented Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. “These Honorees have each played a unique role in shaping America’s artistic landscape with their work, expressing their creativity in ways that pushed the boundaries of what art can do, and what it can mean. Their artistic triumphs have motivated us, moved us, and will continue to inspire us for generations to come.”

In a star-studded celebration on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage, the 2016 Honorees will be saluted by great performers from New York, Hollywood and the arts capitals of the world. Seated with the President of the United States and Mrs. Obama, the Honorees will accept the recognition and gratitude of their peers through performances and tributes.

The President and Mrs. Obama will receive the Honorees along with the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees at the White House prior to the performance and gala. The 2016 Kennedy Center Honors concludes with a gala dinner in the Grand Foyer.

The Honors recipients are recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts – whether in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures or television – and are confirmed by the Executive Committee of the Center’s Board of Trustees. The primary criterion in the selection process is excellence. The Honors are not designated by art form or category of artistic achievement; over the years, the selection process has produced a balance among the various arts and artistic disciplines.


Martha Argerich (Argentine pianist)

Martha Argerich was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Considered a child prodigy, she began her first piano lessons at the age of 5 with Vincenzo Scaramuzza. In 1955, she moved to Europe and continued her studies in London, Vienna and Switzerland. In 1957, she won the Bolzano and Geneva Piano Competitions, and in 1965 the Warsaw International Chopin Competition. She made her first commercial recording in 1960, followed by her U.S. debut in 1965 in the Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series. Since then, she has been considered one of the most prominent pianists in the world, both in popularity and ability. She rose to fame with her interpretations of virtuoso piano literature of the 19th and 20th centuries. Her large repertoire includes Bach, Bartok, Beethoven and Messiaen, as well as Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Debussy, Ravel, Franck, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. Though she is often invited by the most prestigious orchestras, conductors and music festivals in Europe, Japan and America, chamber music currently represents a significant part of her musical life. Her collaborations with other artists are legendary as is her support for young artists. She has organized international competitions where she sometimes serves as juror, hosts an annual festival, performs special concerts and teaches masterclasses herself, as well as with frequent collaborators. Argerich has recorded for EMI, Sony, Philips, Teldec and DGG and performed for worldwide broadcasts, receiving numerous international distinctions. Among her numerous accolades, she is the recipient of three Grammy Awards(R), continuing to elevate the classical music genre in quality and appeal to a global audience.

The Eagles (rock band: the late Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh)

The Eagles are one of the most influential and commercially successful American rock bands of all time. With their profound lyrics, harmonies and country-tinged melodies, they created a signature Southern California sound. The Eagles have sold more than 120 million albums worldwide, have scored six #1 albums and have topped the singles charts five times. The band’s “Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)” album, with sales in excess of 29 million units, is second only to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as the greatest-selling album of all time. Glenn Frey was born in Detroit, Michigan. Growing up, he studied piano and played in local bands. After moving to Los Angeles, he met Don Henley. After touring together as members of Linda Ronstadt’s backing band, they began writing songs that would appear on their debut album, Eagles. Frey and Henley co-wrote most of the band’s best-known songs. Glenn Frey succumbed to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia and died on January 18, 2016. Don Henley was born in Cass County, Texas, in 1947 and co-founded the group with Frey. Joe Walsh was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1947. He was already a well-known solo artist when he joined the Eagles in 1975. Walsh’s creative contribution to music has received praise from many of the best rock guitarists. Timothy B. Schmit was born in Oakland, California, in 1947. He joined the Eagles in 1977. Although the Eagles are thought of as a quintessential California band, Schmit is the only member of the group to actually be a native of California. Although the band was initially together only from 1971-1980, they were enormously popular. As a result of overwhelming public demand for their music and its messages, they reunited in 1994 for an MTV concert special. A live recording of the concert, “Hell Freezes Over,” sold millions of copies and launched a tour that ended up running through August 1996. The group released a long-awaited studio album, “Long Road Out of Eden,” in 2007 to critical acclaim.

Al Pacino (actor)

Actor and director Al Pacino is a unique and enduring figure in the world of American stage and film. Born in East Harlem, he grew up in New York City’s South Bronx and studied performing arts until the age of 17 when he moved on to study acting. He began to draw notice on the stage, honing his craft while working in numerous theatrical productions, including off-Broadway performances that led to multiple off-Broadway Obie Awards and his first Tony Award(R) by 1969. Pacino continued appearing onstage in the 1970s, picking up another Tony Award(R) while landing his first leading part in a feature film in 1971. It was the following year that Francis Ford Coppola selected him to take on the breakthrough role of Michael Corleone in “The Godfather.” He was nominated for an Academy Award(R) for his work on “The Godfather” and within the next six years he received another four Academy Award nominations for the films “Serpico,” “The Godfather Part II,” “Dog Day Afternoon” and “… And Justice for All.” A long and rich film career has followed, with more than 45 titles, including “Scarface,” “Sea of Love,” “The Insider,” “Donnie Brasco,” “Heat” (where he shared the screen for the first time with fellow film icon Robert DeNiro) and “Any Given Sunday.” He garnered two additional Academy Award nominations and in 1992 won the Academy Award for Best Actor in “Scent of a Woman.” He played Shylock in Michael Radford’s film adaptation of “The Merchant of Venice” and received another Tony Award(R) nomination for Best Leading Actor for playing the same role on stage. Also, Pacino received the Golden Globe(R) Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement in Motion Pictures, the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award and in 2011 the National Merit of Arts from President Obama.

Mavis Staples (gospel and rhythm and blues artist)

This iconic singer is an alchemist of American music, having continuously crossed genre lines like no musician since Ray Charles. Over the course of her 60-year career as a musical pioneer, she has intrepidly blurred the lines between gospel, soul, folk, pop, R&B, blues, rock, Americana and hip-hop. Now in her seventh decade, with the release of her new album “Livin’ on a High Note,” she is only gaining momentum. Now in her seventh decade, with the release of her new album “Livin’ on a High Note,” she is only gaining momentum. She continues to tour incessantly, remaining vital, engaged and continually evolving her sound to reflect the times she traverses and influences with her music. Since her first recording at age 13 in 1954, Mavis Staples has learned from, worked with and schooled countless legends, and has brought her own timeless talent to every performance. In the 1950s, she helped create the Delta-inflected gospel sound with her father Pops and her brother and sisters as The Staple Singers, followed by the freedom songs of the civil rights era. She rose to pop radio stardom during the Stax era with such hits as “I’ll Take You There,” “Respect Yourself” and “The Last Waltz.” Staples served as muse to both Bob Dylan and Prince at the peak of their careers. Her 21st-century collaborations include work with Van Morrison, Billy Preston, Zac Brown, Ry Cooder, Bruce Hornsby, Chuck D. and Willie Nelson. From her Grammy Award(R)-winning partnership with fellow Chicagoan Jeff Tweedy, to her HBO documentary “Mavis!,” the one constant has been Mavis and her singular voice. She has embraced her evolution, absorbing new sounds and ideas, rising to meet the challenges of longevity and bringing her message of hope and positivity to new listeners – song after song, show after show.

James Taylor (singer, songwriter)

As a recording and touring artist, James Taylor has touched people with his warm baritone voice and distinctive style of guitar-playing for more than 40 years, while setting a precedent to which countless young musicians have aspired. Over the course of his celebrated songwriting and performing career, Taylor has sold more than 100 million albums, earning gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards for classics ranging from “Sweet Baby James” in 1970, to “October Road” in 2002. In 2015, Taylor released “Before This World,” his first new studio album in 13 years, which earned him his first #1 album on the Billboard Charts and a Grammy(R) nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album. He has won multiple Grammy Awards and has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the prestigious Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2012, Taylor was awarded the distinguished Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government and the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony. In November of 2015, Taylor was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation’s highest civilian honor. Currently, Taylor is in the middle of a five-month tour to more than 50 cities in North America, which includes sold-out performances at Tanglewood, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park.

Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment are executive producers of the special. White Cherry Entertainment is well known for producing the award-winning Tony Awards(R) for the last 14 consecutive years, and also for producing the Emmy Awards(R), NFL Opening Kickoff and Super Bowl Halftime Shows, the Democratic National Convention, Presidential Inaugural Galas, and many others. To date, White Cherry Entertainment has won eight Emmy Awards, while Kirshner and Weiss have individually received an additional four Emmy Awards, six Directors Guild Awards, a Peabody Award and more than 30 Emmy nominations. This is the second consecutive year White Cherry will produce the Kennedy Center Honors. The Kennedy Center Honors Founding Producer is George Stevens Jr.

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