Kennedy Center honors U2, George Clooney and Tania León

It will be a “Beautiful Day” for the band U2 and four other artists in December, when they are recognized with the Kennedy Center Honors.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced Thursday Irish rock band actor George Clooney, singers Gladys Knight and Amy Grant and Cuban composer Tania León as this year’s honorees.

The center usually honors five people annually for influencing American culture through the arts, but sometimes also recognizes the impact of marching bands and other groups. Disco-funk outfit Earth, Wind & Fire was the most recent, in 2019, the same year the children’s TV show “Sesame Street” was honored. The Eagles were honored in 2016 and Led Zeppelin in 2012.

Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said in an interview that her group has worked hard to include all of the performing arts in the awards show. She singled out Grant’s music in particular as a different genre represented in this year’s honors.

“We’ve had gospel before. We’ve had a lot of R&B and soul… We’ve had country music, but we haven’t necessarily had Amy Grant and Christian pop in the same way,” he said, comparing Grant’s inclusion to the center’s tribute to LL Cool J in 2017. , the first time the honorees included a hip hop artist.

This is the 45th year for the honors, which will include a gala on December 4 in Washington with the participation of great artists. The show will air on CBS at a later date.

Rutter said that “it’s not about (rewarding) a job that happens to be popular this year. Or a movie. Or a piece of choreography.” It is about the “achievements of a lifetime”.

Here’s a look at the honorees:



Rutter recounted being told that U2 frontman Bono was eating and dropped his fork when he was told the band had been selected for the honour. But it took him a while to accept because Bono had to convince his teammates (The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr.) to participate and they weren’t all in the same place, Rutter said.

U2 have sold 170 million records and have received 22 Grammy Awards. His epic singles include “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday”.

In a message of thanks to the Kennedy Center, the band noted that it performed its first concert in the United States in New York in 1980. The second was in Washington.

“We had big dreams then, fueled in part by the common belief at home that America smiles on Ireland. And it turned out to be true, once again. 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,” U2 said in a statement calling America “a home away from home.”



Clooney, who played cunning thief Danny Ocean in “Ocean’s Eleven” and its sequels, won’t need to come up with any kind of plan to take home the Kennedy Center Honors.

The 61-year-old actor-director has won two Academy Awards, for best supporting actor for “Syriana” and as producer for the Oscar-winning best picture “Argo,” and has starred in such films as “O Brother, Where Art Thou? (“Where are you, brother?”), “Up In the Air” (“Non-stop love”), “Michael Collins” (“The price of freedom”) and “The Descendants” (“The descendants”).

“Growing up in a small town in Kentucky, I never could have imagined that one day I would be the one sitting on the balcony at the Kennedy Center Honors,” Clooney said in a statement, adding that the honor was a “really exciting surprise.” ” for your whole family.

Clooney and his wife, British human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, have 5-year-old twins. Clooney came to prominence on the television series “ER,” in which he played Dr. Doug Ross. His directing credits include “Good Night, and Good Luck.” (“Good night, and good luck.”), “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” (“Confessions of a dangerous mind”) and “The Tender Bar”.


Gladys Knight

Knight, 78, is the only one of this year’s honorees to have performed at the Kennedy Center Honors. In 2021, the eight-time Grammy winner sang Garth Brooks’ “We Shall Be Free” in honor of the country music singer, who wiped his eye and blew kisses at her after her performance.

Knight, who with his group The Pips recorded such soul classics as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia,” said he never expected to be on the other side of the stage. When she learned that the Kennedy Center wanted to honor her, her response was, “What?”

“I just couldn’t believe it, so here we are,” he said in an interview. “I love the fact that they thought of me. I don’t take any of that kind of stuff for granted.”

Knight joined Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Dionne Warwick for the 1985 hit “That’s What Friends are For.” Wonder was honored by the Kennedy Center in 1999 and John in 2004.



Grant, winner of six Grammy Awards, has already had a great year. Her daughter Millie, who inspired her 1991 hit “Baby Baby,” gave birth to a daughter, Penelope Willow.

The Christian music star has two other grandchildren through the daughter of her husband, country musician Vince Gill.

Grant, 61, said in an interview that when he heard about the Kennedy Center, he initially thought it was Gill they wanted to honor. He “has performed several times at the Kennedy Center Honors. I haven’t even been to the ceremony. I have never been her escort,” he said.

The singer, also known for “Every Heartbeat” and “That’s What Love is For,” has her roots in gospel music but found a broader audience with the release of her 1991 album “Heart in Motion.”

Grant said he currently has two songs to record in the studio, including a Christmas song that will be part of a Hallmark movie. “Like a lot of good songs, he came out of a therapy session,” he said.

She added that one of the things that energizes her at this point in her life is “creating conversation circles to help solve problems” like disenfranchisement and homelessness in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.



Composer and conductor Tania León has worked with the Kennedy Center several times, so she didn’t think it was “anything spectacular” when she got an email to set up a call, she said. But she was stunned into silence when told that the center wanted to honor her.

Leon, 79, said it’s the second time she’s been “a little paralyzed” by a phone call. The other was when she was called to tell her that she won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Music for her orchestral work “Stride.”

Born in Havana, León is a founding member of the Dance Theater of Harlem and has been a guest conductor for orchestras around the world. Currently, she said that she is working on a short solo piece to be released next week and an orchestral piece, among other things. She’s happy to be busy, she said, explaining that her mantra is, “We’re going to be dead for a long time.”

“We have to live to the fullest and do the best we can while we are alive,” he said.

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