Kennedy Center honorees unveiled sans Sir Paul

McCartney withdrew name last year, absent this year

WASHINGTON — The John F. Kennedy Center will celebrate comedian Carol Burnett, “Godfather of Soul” James Brown, country singer Loretta Lynn, film/legit director Mike Nichols and violinist Itzhak Perlman at the Kennedy Center Honors this year.

The honorees were unveiled here Tuesday with the usual fanfare. Conspicuously absent from the list is musician Paul McCartney, who was selected last year but withdrew his name for personal reasons. The Kennedy Center said at the time that McCartney would instead receive the honor in 2003.

But the rock star’s name “did not emerge” from the selection meeting of the Kennedy Center’s board of trustees, according to George Stevens Jr., co-producer of the annual awards telecast. He said he was unaware of any communication on the subject between McCartney and representatives of the honors, and could not elaborate on the development. However, he said McCartney did not decline the award a second time. The Kennedy Center declined comment.

Kennedy Center chairman James A. Johnson said of this year’s quintet, “We honor one of the most influential musicians of the last 50 years, a nationally treasured icon of television comedy, a singer whose name is synonymous with the heartbreak and joy of country music, an extraordinary director whose career has been equally brilliant in the theater and on film and a classical superstar of unsurpassed artistic achievement.”

The honors, now in their 26th year, will be presented at a gala performance Dec. 7 in the Kennedy Center’s Opera House, to be attended by artists and dignitaries including President and Mrs. Bush As usual, the gala will be broadcast later in December on CBS.

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