Musician withdrew to attend niece's wedding

WASHINGTON — Musician Paul McCartney will receive Kennedy Center Honors in 2003 instead of this year due to a scheduling conflict caused by a family wedding.

McCartney asked to withdraw because his niece is getting married during the same Dec. 7-8 weekend as the honors program. The wedding plans were reportedly formed after McCartney had committed to receive the 2002 award.

“We felt that under the circumstances, it made perfect sense to honor his request,” said George Stevens Jr., co-producer of the honors program and creator of the award. “We are happy that he will be able to be honored next year,” said Stevens. He said the artist committee is busily selecting “another outstanding fifth nominee” and that an announcement will be made by the Kennedy Center early this week.

Loss of the marquee name is a major disappointment for the center and comes as the award prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary. It is the first time an honoree has withdrawn and the first time the center has publicly agreed to postpone an award. The four others who will receive the honor this year are actress Elizabeth Taylor, actor James Earl Jones, conductor James Levine and dancer-actress Chita Rivera.

Kennedy Center chairman James A. Johnson said the center “understands and respects (McCartney’s) sense of priority that places an inescapable personal obligation ahead of other commitments.”

The ex-Beatle expressed to the center his “deepest regret and profound apologies” for being unable to attend the Washington event in December.

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