Motown founder Berry Gordy is among the five honorees who will receive the 44th Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime artistic achievements from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The event will take place on Sunday, December 5.
Gordy was confirmed among the recipients who will be celebrated at the annual national celebration of the arts in Washington, D.C., along with operatic bass-baritone Justino Díaz, Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, stage and screen star Bette Midler, and definitive singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.
‘Enrichment beyond measure’
“The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates luminaries whose art and creativity have enriched us beyond measure,” says Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein. “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.”
Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter notes: “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.
‘The party to end all parties’
“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.”
During its 43-year history, the Honors Gala, broadcast nationally in the US on CBS, has become the highlight of the Washington cultural and society calendar. This year’s event will be broadcast as a two-hour primetime special at a date to be announced, bringing the star-packed celebration on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage into millions of homes, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
The gala will be produced by Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment, with its honorees, seated in the Box Tier of the opera house, saluted by leading performers from New York, Hollywood, and arts capitals worldwide.
“The Arts not only give voice to the voiceless, but connect us, transform us, and soothe our souls,” says Berry Gordy. “The Kennedy Center Honors epitomizes the recognition and value of both the Arts, and the Artist. I am thrilled to become a part of this prestigious American legacy.
“Growing up in Detroit, I was not only Black but the ‘black sheep’ of my family. I was a failure at everything I did until I was 29 years old, while my younger brother Robert was not only a family favorite, but strangely, a favorite of mine as well. He inspired me with his loyalty, love, and graciousness. Throughout the years I’ve been blessed with many wonderful memories, but this – the Kennedy Center Honors – is one that will be forever in my heart. Thank you.”