WASHINGTON — Irish rock group U2, actor and filmmaker George Clooney, singers Gladys Knight and Amy Grant and composer and director Tania León will be recognized for their achievements in the arts at the 45th annual Kennedy Center Honors on 4 of December at the National Arts. center
Sunday night’s performance is the centerpiece of a weekend that includes a private dinner presenting the signature rainbow medals and a fundraising gala for thousands afterwards of the Opera show. The production, with its top-secret guest lineup, will later air on CBS.
The 2022 honorees represent the best of the entertainment world, said Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter, but they have also used their talents to inspire change.
“In each case, these are artists who do more than perform. They are artists as citizens who give back and make the world a better place through art,” Rutter said, citing the philanthropic, humanitarian and educational contributions each has made. “This is about art for life. These artists are a mirror of who we are.”
Knight’s pick wins the “What took you so long?” of this year’s category, a perennial question for the selection committee, Rutter said.
“There are a lot of people in the ‘What took so long?’ list. That’s why it’s so hard. There are so many deserving artists,” Rutter said.
Knight, 78, performed a knockout rendition of the Garth Brooks song, “We Shall Be Free” as part of last year’s tribute to the country singer.
“I had so much fun in that performance. I was so excited that they thought about making me a part of it,” Knight said by phone Wednesday. He expressed his gratitude to be among the latest awardees, especially one so rich in music.
“I like all kinds of music, to be honest. Country and gospel have always been the two I go to,” said Knight, who headlined a benefit in 2002 at the Kennedy Center for the American Diabetes Association, one of the charities he supports.
Born in Georgia, Knight began singing in the youth choir at her Baptist church when she was 4 years old. She was still a child when she won the grand prize on Ted Mack’s “Hora de l’Amateur” and at the age of 16 when she and her brother Bubba, sister Brenda and two cousins released their first record as the Pips . Two years later, the group became Gladys Knight and the Pips.
The Empress of Soul has released 38 albums and won seven Grammy Awards over a career that spans its seventh decade. Among his best-known hits are “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “If I Were Your Woman,” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
The honors made her remember her incredible journey in music and the contributions of her late mother, Knight said.
“She chose all or most of the music I was making,” he said. “And my mom could sing, too. She’d come in right there, while we were rehearsing. She’d hear every little thing.”
U2 members Bono (Paul David Hewson), The Edge (David Howell Evans), Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. they met as teenagers and have been performing together since 1976. Known worldwide for their popular stadium tours, the group has released 14 studio albums. and won 22 Grammys. U2 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. He has supported human rights efforts around the world and contributed to campaigns to fight AIDS, poverty and cancer.
The band first performed in the United States in 1980.
“We had big dreams then, fueled in part by the common belief back home that America smiles on Ireland,” the band members said in a statement released by the arts center. “But even in our wildest thoughts, we never imagined that 40 years later, we would be invited to receive one of the nation’s highest honors. . . . It’s been four decades of love with the country and its people, the its artists and culture. We consider America a home away from home, and we are very grateful to the Kennedy Center Honors for welcoming us into this great clan of extraordinary artists.”
Clooney, 61, began his career in television, becoming a household name for his portrayal of Dr. 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 in films such as the Ocean’s film series, “Out of Sight,” “O Brother, Where Are Thou” 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 could have imagined that one day I would be the one sitting in the balcony of the Kennedy Center Honors. To be mentioned at the same time as the rest of these incredible artists is an honor. This is a truly exciting surprise for the entire Clooney family,” Clooney said in a statement.
Six-time Grammy Award winner Grant, 61,’s musical career spans more than 40 years and includes singles that topped the pop, adult contemporary and contemporary Christian charts. Among his best known hits are “Baby Baby” and “The Next Time I Fall”, a duet with Peter Cetera and a series of popular Christmas albums. She is the first musician of the contemporary Christian genre to be honored by the Kennedy Center.
“It feels like an American cultural acknowledgment, and that feels profoundly different from anything else,” Grant said by phone Wednesday. “It looks like rarefied air.”
Grant supports many philanthropic causes, 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 in honors for Merle Haggard (2010) and the Eagles (2016). When the Kennedy Center called, Grant was in London with his daughter to see Gill perform with the Eagles, and thought the arts center was offering him the award.
“He’s the most gifted musician I’ve ever met. I was so humbled to receive this honor because the man I lay down with and sleep with every night is . . . wow,” she said. “I have to tell you something, and this is him, when I told him [about the honor] he opened his arms and I crawled into his lap and cried, and he said, “I’m so proud of you.” “
Recognized as an ambassador for new music, León is an award-winning composer, conductor and teacher who was one of the founders of the Dance Theater of Harlem and a lifelong supporter of living composers of classical music.
The 79-year-old musician was surprised to learn of the honor.
“It’s kind of overwhelming. It’s the kind of surprise where you go, ‘What?'” she said. “Of course, when it sinks in, it starts to put a movie in your head of all the things you’ve done, remembering the people who are no longer there, the ones who encouraged you from the beginning, starting with your grandparents “.
León’s grandmother enrolled her in music lessons when she was a child in Cuba. The classically trained pianist left for Miami in 1967 at the age of 24 to pursue a career as a concert performer. He quickly moved to New York and on his first trip to Harlem to fill in for a friend accompanying ballet classes there, he met the famous dancer Arthur Mitchell. He left this gig with an invitation to work on his next project, which became the Dance Theater of Harlem.
“I had no idea who it was, I was just enjoying the piano,” said León, who became the group’s musical director. “That’s how life surprises you. To this day I don’t know how that happened.”
Mitchell encouraged her to write music, and choreographed a dance with her first composition. León was a New Music Advisor to the New York Philharmonic in the 1990s, conducted the Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra several times, and launched the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s Community Concert Series. He founded Composers Now, an organization that commissions and advocates for living composers, and taught generations of students at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center from 1985 until his retirement in 2019.
“I have always been a musician. I model myself, I reinvent myself, I create myself. It’s still ongoing,” he said. “It happens to all human beings the same way: We keep growing until it’s time to go.”
Her work “Stride” was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic as part of Project 19, an initiative launched in 2020 that premiered 19 works by 19 women to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment that gave women’s right to vote. He was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Music.
The 2022 Kennedy Center Honors will be produced by Done+Dusted, the company behind 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.