George Clooney, Gladys Knight among Kennedy Center honorees

WASHINGTON (AP) — Usually, artists like Gladys Knight or Irish band U2 headline a concert for thousands but at the Kennedy Center Honors on Sunday The tables will be turned because they and other artists will be the ones whose artistic contributions will be celebrated throughout their lives.

Actor, director, producer and human rights activist George Clooneythe leading composer and conductor Tanya LyonContemporary Christian singer Amy Grant Will join Knightand the entire U2 crew in tribute John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The organization honors a select group of people each year for their artistic impact on American culture. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses are also scheduled to attend.

The 61-year-old Clooney — the actor among this year’s group of musically-leaning honorees — has TV credits dating back to the late ’70s, but became a household name with the role of Doug Ross on the TV show ER.

From there he starred in films like “Batman & Robin,” “Three Kings,” “Ocean’s Eleven” (and Twelve and Thirteen), and his latest film, “Ticket to Heaven.” He also has extensive directing and producing work including ‘Good Night, and Good Luck’. He and his wife, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, set up the company Clooney Foundation for JusticeHe has produced telethons to raise money for various causes.

“To be mentioned at the same time as the rest of these incredible artists is such an honor. This is a really exciting surprise for the entire Clooney family,” Clooney said in a statement on the center’s website.

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Knight, 78, said in a statement that she was “humbled beyond words” to receive the Kennedy honour. The Georgia-born Knight began singing gospel music at the age of four and has gone on to have a career that has spanned decades.

Knight and his family members started a band that later became known as “Gladys Knight & The Pips” and produced their first album in 1960 when Knight was just 16 years old. Since then, she’s recorded dozens of albums with classics like “I Heard It Through” The Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Along the way she’s been featured in TV shows and movies. When Knight and the band were inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Mariah Carey called Knight “…a textbook to learn from.”

Sometimes the Kennedy Center honors not just individuals, but groups; “Sesame Street” once got the nod.

This year is the band U2. The group’s strong association with America goes back decades. They performed in Washington during their first trip to America in 1980. In a statement, the band — made up of Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. — said they originally came to America with big dreams “fueled in part by the belief back home that America smiles for Ireland.”

“And it turned out to be true, again,” the statement read. “It’s been a four-decade love affair with the country and its people, artists and culture.”

U2 has sold 170 million albums and has been honored with 22 Grammys. The band’s epic singles include “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Bloody Sunday”. Lead singer Bono has also become known for his philanthropic work To eradicate poverty and raise awareness of AIDS.

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Amy Grant, in an interview with the Associated Press, said Christian music is her singing that she has never been to the Kennedy Center Honors even though her husband, country musician Vince Gill, has performed during previous ceremonies. Grammy award-winning Grant is known for crossover pop songs like “Baby, Baby,” “Every Heartbeat,” and “That’s What Love is For.” She has sold more than 30 million albums, including her 1991 record “Heart in Motion,” which introduced her to a larger pop audience.

Composer and conductor Tanya Lyon said during an interview when the honorees were announced that she wasn’t expecting “anything amazing” when the Kennedy Center first contacted her. After all, she’s worked with the Kennedy Center many times over the years since 1980 when she was commissioned to compose music for a play.

But the 79-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner said she was shocked to learn the ceremony would be hers this time.

Leon left Cuba as a refugee in 1967 and eventually settled in New York City. She is a founding member of Dance Theater of Harlem and founder of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series.


Follow Santana on Twitter @ruskygal.

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