The Kennedy Center has crossed genres and cultural lines for the 2006 Kennedy Center Honors given for lifetime achievement in the performing arts. While the Kennedy Center hosted the event on Dec. 3, the actual awards were presented on Dec. 2 at a State Department dinner, hosted by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
The honorees cross several backgrounds, to say the least. The group includes film, theatre and song, from country to Motown to classical. How do you limit this people to one introductory paragraph? Well, it’s almost impossible, and perhaps that’s the ONE thing these people have in common, besides unadulterated talent in their chosen fields.
Steven Spielberg, age 58. Are there cinema fans in the United States who have NEVER seen ANY of Spielberg’s films? Chances are people have seen a Spielberg production without even knowing it. He’s received Academy Awards for best director for Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List. Spielberg was honored with the “Bundesverdienstkreuz mit Stern” (the highest civil distinction the Federal Republic of Germany has to give away) for Schindler’s List. Other notable gems have included: ET, Jaws, Poltergeist, An American Tail, Encounters of the Third Kind, and the Indiana Jones movies. Stalwart fans will remember his stints on the tiny screen, directing for Marcus Welby, and Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, age 58 was knighted 1992 in honor of his achievements. Webber has forged together a career full of Cats, Phantoms, political figures (Evita) and the spiritual (Jesus Christ Superstar). Webber has seven Tony awards to his name, as well as three Grammy awards.
From the music field, country music star Dolly Parton (age 60) and Motown artist Smoky Robinson represent. Parton is crossover performer who has a Grammy for her music, and is known more as a songwriter than for the popularity of many of her own songs. Parton is one of 12 children born to a tobacco farmer. She has also starred in Steel Magnolias, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and a Parton classic, Nine to Five. Oh, yes, she has that whole theme-park thing going with Dollywood. That certainly falls into multi faceted.
William “Smokey” Robinson, age 66, got the nickname “Smokey” because of his love of old-time westerns. He claims his roots in Motown, spending time with The Miracles. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 1991. He had already been received Soul Train’s Lifetime Achievement award by then. Everyone has a favorite, but some of his best known works are Tears of a Clown, The Tracks of My Tears, My Guy and I Second That Emotion. Robinson prides himself on the fact that while many of the original Motown bands were flashier, the Miracles came with the music, smooth and steady.
Zubin Mehta, age 70 was the musical director of the New York Philharmonic from 1978 to 1991. He is an Indian-born conductor who has also led the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. According to a KennedyCenter press release, Mehta recent had his autobiography published in Germany. The book: Die Partitur meines Leben: Erinnerungen (The Score of my Life: Memories reflects the conductor’s take on his success. He explained,”I do whatever the music demands. What is conducting? Conducting is communication. And what I communicate at the moment is what I feel and what my musicians need.”
Previous honorees include Tony Bennett, Robert Redford, James Earl Jones and Jason Robards. While the awards have been presented, CBS will the televised production will be aired at a later date.