Al Pacino, James Taylor, the rock band The Eagles, Argentine pianist Martha Argerich, and gospel/blues singer Mavis Staples have been named the 2016 recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, in a list weighted toward expertise in the musical arts.
The artists will be celebrated Dec. 4 at a gala presentation that will be broadcast on CBS Dec. 27, according to the Kennedy Center. Now in its 39th year, the event will be produced by White Cherry Entertainment’s Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss, the regular producers of the Tony Awards. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are again expected to attend along with other notables from the worlds of showbusiness, politics and business.
This year’s class of honorees represents “spectacular talents” whose brilliance has left a lasting impact on our society, said Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein.
Pacino has portrayed “some of the most powerful characters of our time on both the stage and silver screen,” said a statement from the KenCen. It called Taylor “one of the defining musical figures of our time,” and lauded Staples for a career that has spanned 60 years while serving as a musical backdrop for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s civil rights campaign. It said Argerich’s distinguished performances have garnered her reputation as “one of the greatest pianists of the 20th and 21st centuries.”
Members of the Eagles (Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh) were initially selected to receive the award last year, but their participation was postponed due to the illness and later death of musician Frey.
The Kennedy Center Honors gala is the institution’s premier fundraising event that draws high demand for tickets among the political, showbiz and business elite. It is preceded the previous evening by a private reception and dinner the previous evening at the U.S. State Department, hosted by the U.S. Secretary of State and where honorees are presented with the ribbons they wear during the gala.