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Stage and screen icon, Bette Midler

The Kennedy Center Announces 2021 Honorees

Currently in its 44th year, the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts selected five honorees based on their lifetime artistic achievements


The recipients of this year's Kennedy Center Honors include operatic bass-baritone Justino Díaz; Motown founder, songwriter, producer, and director Berry Gordy; Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels; stage and screen icon Bette Midler; and singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.

The annual national celebration of the arts will be held in Washington, D.C. this coming December. 

"The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates luminaries whose art and creativity have enriched us beyond measure," said David M. Rubenstein, Kennedy Center Chairman. 

"This year’s Honorees represent the unifying power of the Arts and surely remind us of that which binds us together as human beings," added Deborah F. Rutter, Kennedy Center President. "These artists are equal parts genius, inspiration, and entertainment.

"After the challenges and heartbreak of the last many months, and as we celebrate 50 years of the Kennedy Center, I dare add that we are prepared to throw 'the party to end all parties' in D.C. on December 5th, feting these extraordinary people and welcoming audiences back to our campus. 

"We look forward to shaping an even more exciting Honors program and broadcast with CBS and the producers based on the success and newfound innovations of our 43rd Honors earlier this year," she concluded.

"The Kennedy Center's commitment to the performing arts has always been an important force in American culture," said Lorne Michaels on his being selected. "Being acknowledged here and included in this company is an honor in the truest sense. I am deeply grateful."

Previous recipients include Japanese-American violin virtuoso Midori Goto, who was celebrated at the 43rd Kennedy Center Honors. Others in the past include Leonard Bernstein, Isaac Stern, Yehudi Menuhin, Nathan Milstein, Mstislav Rostropovich, Itzhak Perlman, Seiji Ozawa, and Martha Argerich.

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