The artists to receive this year's Artistic Performance Award on Sunday include Cher, composer Phillip Glass, country legend Reba McEntire, and jazz icon Wayne Shorter.
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Kennedy Center Honors ceremony was almost overshadowed last year by controversy surrounding the seated president. This year's event took place in the shadow of the death of a former Commander-in-Chief.
The ceremony on Sunday evening to honor artistic achievements was honored on several occasions with honors to former President George H.W. Bush, who died on Friday night at the age of 94 years.
The night began at the request of hostess Gloria Estefan with long ovations in Bush's memory.
"I think it is appropriate to acknowledge the death of a wonderful man who dedicated his life to the ministry and was present at this event many times during his tenure. He laughed, applauded, sang along, and even shed a tear from the top of the presidential box, "said Estefan, reminding that he was invited to the White House like Bush" spent literally 45 minutes patiently speaking to my eight-year-old son "how the government worked.
Within days of visiting the White House, Estefan's coach was in a serious accident that nearly paralyzed her and President Bush called her at the hospital, she said.
For the second year in a row, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump rejected an invitation to the awards. They returned to Washington from the Group 20 Summit in Argentina before dawn on Sunday.
The Trumps dropped out last year after some of the laureates ̵
David Rubenstein, Chief Executive Officer of the Kennedy Center, said after a pause that he often thinks of the values Bush brought to the civil service.
"I've never met a decent man, a philanthropic person, a more honest person," Rubenstein said.
During his presidency, Bush attended most years at Kennedy Center Honors – and even thereafter, during his son's presidency – but like other leaders, he was pulled away from important issues that required his time. Bush did not participate in 1989 because he was at a summit in Malta. Jimmy Carter missed the 1979 awards for hostage-taking in Iran. Bill Clinton was on the way to a conference during the Kennedy Center Awards in 1994.
Trump, however, was the first president to miss her twice.
If he had gone to the Kennedy Center, he might have encountered resistance, at least some of the winners, including Cher and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Trump and his government have set an unprecedented distance to the arts and scientific communities. Since September 2016, when Barack Obama was president, neither medals nor arts or humanities were awarded or handed out. This is the longest gap in months since prizes were awarded in the mid-1980s.
This year's winners of artistic achievements this time were Cher, composer Philip Glass, country legend Reba McEntire and jazz icon Wayne Shorter. An unprecedented special prize went to co-creators of "Hamilton" for their genre-bending musical.
McEntire was introduced by music star Kelly Clarkson, who performed McEntire's hit song "Fancy".
"Sometimes when we meet Our heroes, that's not always the case," Clarkson told McEntire, "but my friendship with you has become one of the highlights of my life.
Shorter has been welcomed by the Kennedy Center for a career spanning six decades of collaborations with Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Carlos Santana and Joni Mitchell.
Jason Moran, Artistic Director of the Kennedy Center for Jazz, described Shorter's music in heavenly terms.
"Its sound occupies a special place in the galaxy," Moran said. "I can say with certainty that somewhere in the galaxy, a band is playing one of their pieces."
Glass took its toll on another Kennedy Center Honors recipient: singer-songwriter Paul Simon.
"He can rightly be described as one of our greatest modern composers," said Simon.
Simon praised Glass for his multifaceted work, "Never settling in a particular style, constantly evolving and exploring."
This year's event included a break from tradition by creating a contemporary contemporary work of art, the blockbuster musical "Hamilton", honoring and receiving additional awards for later artists. Author and actor Miranda, director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and music director Alex Lacamoire have been honored as "pioneering creators of a transformational work that defies every category."
The comedian Whoopi Goldberg opened a tribute to Cher in a flowing sparkling robe. She joked out of the closet of the pop music icon.
"It's the true original," said Goldberg. "Not only did she march to the beat of her own drum – darling, she's a one-woman band!"
The evening ended with Cyndi Lauper, a longtime friend of Cher, who performed "If I Could Back Time".
The Honors Tribute Performers are always kept secret from the receivers, and this was no exception. When Lauper showed up, Cher called from her seat, "They told me you were going to Los Angeles!"
Lauper shrugged and said, "I lied."
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