WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – An emotional Patti LaBelle paid tribute to her longtime friend Gladys Knight. Matt Damon jokingly teased his friend George Clooney, while Sheryl Crow thanked and dedicated her rendition of “Baby Baby” to fellow singer Amy Grant during Sunday’s Kennedy Center Honors.
Knight, Clooney and Grant were honored at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as were Cuban-born songwriter and conductor Tania Leon and Irish rock band U2. Each year, the organization honors a select group of individuals for their artistic influence on American culture. Attendees included President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, accompanied by their spouses.
On the red carpet before the show at the Kennedy Center, Clooney, accompanied by his wife Amal, joked that after seeing some of his friends in attendance, such as Don Cheadle and Julia Roberts, he was concerned that the tribute to him would be a comical toast. Will be against him. And in a way if there were jokes for Clooney though his family and friends clearly respected him.
Her friend Roberts took the stage in a dress printed from photographs of Clooney. After his somewhat humorous, somewhat emotional introduction, he once more headed toward the set, which is the kind of Clooney one might like. The actor’s father entertained audiences with anecdotes of young George, in which the 7-year-old, devastated by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, gave his father all his toy guns.
Damon brought out his comedic side by poking fun at the time Clooney stole stationery from then-President Bill Clinton and wrote notes to the other actors. Cheadle, on his part, highlighted Clooney’s philanthropic work.
During an interview to announce the honors, Lyons said he did not expect “anything spectacular” when the Kennedy Center approached him. After all, he had worked with the Kennedy Center several times since 1980, when he was commissioned to produce a play.
But the 79-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner admitted he was surprised to learn the ceremony would be held in his honour.
Leone left Cuba as a refugee in 1967, eventually settling in New York City. She is a founding member of Harlem Dance Theater and created the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series.
LaBelle referred to Knight as “everything”, adding that they have been friends for six decades and have seen each other through tears and laughter. “We do everything together,” LaBelle said. “I am honored to have you here tonight.”
Meanwhile, actor and hip-hop star LL Cool J said that whenever Knight sings, he connects with the audience. “One time I heard Gladys singing the alphabet and I thought she was in church,” she said.
Discussing Knight’s origins in country music, Garth Brooks performed his classic song “Midnight Train to Georgia”.
Crowe sang one of Grant’s most recognizable songs, “Baby Baby”, while veteran newscaster Katie Couric talked about how young she was when Grant’s talent was discovered.
The honorees arrived at the theater after attending a White House reception where Biden called them “an extraordinary group of performers.”
“Thank you for showing us the power of art and of ‘we the people,'” the president said, referring to the famous words with which the Preamble to the US Constitution begins.
The president highlighted Clooney’s work in front of the cameras and his efforts on the big screen, from helping families of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to showing his support for the gun control campaign. by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting.
Biden said, ‘ He is tireless and never gives up. “That is his character in real life. That’s George Clooney.”
Biden called Grant’s voice “a true gift from God that she shares with everyone” and thanked Lyons for giving her a “new voice to the nation’s soul”. He said he has all of Knight’s songs on his iPhone.
Biden remarked about Knight saying, “We’re going to get on that midnight train.” “Because I speak for all Americans when I say that we would rather live in our world without you than in our world without you.”
Expressing his love for the Irish poets, Biden called U2 “four sons of Ireland, poets in their own right” whose music “has changed the world.”
“We would do well to remember that today, at a time when there is so much hatred, so much anger, so much division in America and around the world,” Biden said. “Today we must remember, as his song says: ‘We are one, but we are not the same. We must carry each other with us.'”
U2 has sold over 170 million records and won 22 Grammy Awards. The band’s hits include: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, and “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. Singer Bono is also known for his philanthropic work in alleviating poverty and raising awareness of AIDS.
Clooney “Three Kings”, “Ocean’s Eleven” (“Twelve” and “Thirteen”), “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and this year “Ticket to Paradise”.
Knight started a group with members of her family that later became known as Gladys Knight and the Pips, which recorded their first album in 1960, when Knight was just 16 years old. He has since recorded dozens of albums with hits like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and the aforementioned “Midnight Train to Georgia.”
Grant is best known for pop hits such as “Every Heartbeat” and “That’s What Love Is For”. She has sold over 30 million records, including her 1991 album “Heart in Motion,” which catapulted her to a large audience in pop music.
Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.
Santana is on Twitter as: @ruskygal.