Recipients of the 31st Annual Kennedy Center Honors include stage and screen star Morgan Freeman; singer George Jones; Academy Award-winning actress, director and singer Barbra Streisand; Tony-winning choreographer Twyla Tharp; and "The Who" musicians Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey.
The Honorees received the Honors at the State Department Dec. 6. The six artists were then celebrated at an all-star gala Dec. 7 that was filmed for broadcast.
Caroline Kennedy hosted the gala, which boasted a starry mix of performers and presenters: Beyoncé, Jack Black, Garth Brooks, Glenn Close, Chris Cornell, Clint Eastwood, Honeyboy Edwards, Marcelo Gomes, Dave Grohl, Nathan Gunn, Alan Jackson, B.B. King, Bettye Lavette, Shelby Lynne, Idina Menzel, Ne-Yo, Kelli O'Hara, Brad Paisley, Luciana Paris, Pinetop Perkins, Queen Latifah, Joss Stone, Koko Taylor, Rob Thomas, Lily Tomlin, Randy Travis and Denzel Washington.
In a previous statement Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen A. Schwarzman said, "With their extraordinary genius and tenacity, the 2008 Honorees have redefined the way we see, hear and feel the performing arts. We will forever be thankful for the great gifts they have shared with us. Morgan Freeman's name is synonymous with great screen acting and is one of the most respected performers in American cinema. With his unique voice and extraordinary career endurance, singer George Jones has been instrumental in making country music a vital force in American life. Barbra Streisand's trailblazing career in music, theater, films, and television is one of the most thrilling spectacles of our culture. Choreographer Twyla Tharp is an American original, whose work has indelibly enriched the vocabulary of modern dance, contemporary ballet, and the Broadway musical. As the heart and soul of the seminal band The Who, songwriters and singers Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey transformed the sights and sounds of rock and roll."
Last year's honorees included actor, comedian and playwright Steve Martin; pianist Leon Fleisher; singer Diana Ross; film director Martin Scorsese; and songwriter Brian Wilson. Morgan Freeman, recently on Broadway in The Country Girl, earned a Tony nomination and a Drama Desk Award for his work in The Mighty Gents. He has also appeared on Broadway in Hello, Dolly!; Purlie; and The Gospel at Colonus and Off-Broadway in The Dozens. Freeman won the Academy Award for his performance in "Million Dollar Baby" and was nominated for his roles in "The Shawshank Redemption," "Driving Miss Daisy" and "Street Smart."
Barbra Streisand starred on Broadway in I Can Get It for You Wholesale and Funny Girl, earning Tony Award nominations for both performances. She received a 1970 Special Tony Award. The actress, composer and director has won two Academy Awards: for Best Actress in a Leading Role in "Funny Girl" and for Best Music, Original Song (with Paul Williams) for the "A Star Is Born" song "Evergreen." Her Grammy-winning recordings are numerous.
Twyla Tharp won a Tony Award for her choreography for Movin' Out and was Tony-nominated for her direction of that Billy Joel-scored production. Her other Broadway credits include The Times They Are A-Changin', Singin' in the Rain, The Catherine Wheel and Push Comes to Shove.
Pete Townshend won a 1993 Tony Award for Best Score for The Who's Tommy (the Best Score prize was a tie between Tommy and Kander and Ebb's Kiss of the Spider Woman). Townshend was also Tony-nominated (with Des McAnuff) for Best Book of a Musical for Tommy.
For more information about the Kennedy Center Honorees or the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, visit www.kennedy-center.org.