X is for excellence: the Kennedy Center Honors

As anyone who has read this blog often enough knows, I watch the Kennedy Center Honors, a designation of excellence, every December just after Christmas.

It is “an annual honor given to those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture (though recipients do not need to be U.S. citizens). The Honors have been presented annually since 1978, culminating each December in a star-studded gala celebrating the Honorees in the Kennedy Center Opera House.”

I’m wondering who will host this year. Stephen Colbert has done so since 2014, but given the unkind things the comedian has said about the current White House regime, I can’t imagine that would continue. “The first host was Leonard Bernstein in 1978, followed by Eric Sevareid in 1979 and Beverly Sills in 1980. Walter Cronkite hosted from 1981 to 2002 and Caroline Kennedy hosted from 2003 until 2012. Glenn Close was host in 2013.”

At the gala, the Honors find performers who highlight the work of the recipients, with the recipients, and usually the President and First Lady looking on.

Some particular performances stick in my mind:

2007: Brian Wilson
Libera, boys choir from London, singing Love and Mercy, the debut song from his first solo album
Listen here at 6:20 or here at 13:04

2008 The Who (Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey)
Betty Lavette singing Love Reign O’er Me, from the band’s Quadrophenia album, practically a religious experience
Listen here or here

2012: Led Zeppelin (John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, pictured L-R)
Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson perform Stairway to Heaven, from LZ’s fourth album, with the late John Bonham’s son Jason playing the drums
Listen here or here at 13:50

2013: Billy Joel
Garth Brooks and friends singing Goodnight Saigon, from Joel’s Nylon Curtain album
Listen here at 12:33 or here at 12:34

2015: Carole King
Aretha Franklin sings the Goffin-King classic (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, and Carole is SO excited!
Listen here or here

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