Sutton Foster, Patina Miller & Karen Olivo Honor Shirley MacLaine at KENNEDY CENTER HONORS
Multiple Grammy Award, Emmy Award and Tony Award winner Harry Belafonte, a 1989 Kennedy Center Honoree, introduced the tribute to his longtime friend, multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy Award-winning musician Carlos Santana. "I tell you folks, there's no two ways about it, we have got to do something about Mexican immigration. Every day you have people like Carlos Santana coming into this country and taking jobs that should be going to... to Americans!" he joked. Belafonte continued, "Carlos Santana is now a citizen of the world. He belongs to all of us. And while he hasn't transcended race and origin - really, who of us does? - he has continued to be informed by the immigrant experience and the journey to the American dream. I think that's why his music is so filled with joy and passion... and his heart is filled with love and generosity. Even without the music, Carlos Santana would be an essential humanitarian... but with the music... well, he is a god. His music tells us to be happy, to get up and move and not just side to side, but to get up and move mountains. It tells us to love. And what a privilege it is tonight to give back some of that love to my friend, Carlos Santana."
The musical portion of the tribute commenced with a vibrant introduction by the Rob Mathes All Star Band of "Soul Sacrifice," followed by an exciting performance medley of "Corazon Espinado," "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va," with vocalist Fher Olvera, multiple Grammy Award winner Juanes on vocals and electric guitar, and guitarist Tom Morello. Next, blues legend Buddy Guy, a multiple Grammy Award winner and 2012 Kennedy Center Honoree, performed "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man." Finally, Grammy Award-winning musician Steven Winwood and Grammy Award-nominated recording artist Sheila E gave the audience an exhilarating rendition of "Everybody's Everything," which concluded the performances in honor of Carlos Santana.
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayer began the tribute to honoree Martina Arroyo by saying, "I'm here for the diva. Now we justices are fond of using words precisely. Long before diva took on a different meaning, it meant the most celebrated of female opera singers - generally a soprano of rare talent. As a derivative of an Italian word meaning 'goddess,' it was used sparingly to describe only those opera singers who took us to another world. Now that's the kind of diva I'm talking about. That's Martina Arroyo. Martina always had the raw talent - a soaring, lyrical, captivating voice that transports her listeners. But to be a real diva, you need more. First, you need grit, determination, passion and dedication to your craft. Born into a world in which it took until 1955 for the first female singer of color to appear at the Met, Martina faced an uphill battle. With the help of incredible parents who taught her that she could accomplish anything, she never gave up."
Sotomayer continued, "Another quality you need to be a true diva is heart. I'm convincEd Martina's voice couldn't be that beautiful if it weren't connected to a heart that's beautiful. She is the most giving person - lavishing warmth, care, and attention on her colleagues, many friends, and legions of students. We bonded with each other - a kid from Harlem and another from the South Bronx - over a love of mothers and a sympathetic understanding of the value of people. Finally, I think you can be a diva without a sense of humor, but you can't be my diva. I just love Martina's gentle wit. When the great diva of color Leontyne Price was also appearing at the Met, the stage doorman greetEd Martina saying, 'Good evening, Miss Price.' She sweetly replied, 'No, honey, I'm the other one.' ...Martina Arroyo is full of life, one of the girls, a sensitive teacher, a lover of people, and a brilliant artist. That's how I like my divas. That's why I love my friend Martina Arroyo."
The tribute to Martina Arroyo was a Verdi celebration featuring the music of "Aida," commencing with tenor opera singer Joseph Calleja singing "Celeste Aida." Next, soprano Sondra Radvanovsky performed "O Patria Mia." Then the United States Naval Academy Glee Club and Army Herald Trumpets took the stage for the "TriumpHal March," followed by the "Finale from Act II," sung by Arroyo's protégés Ryan Speedo Green, Robert Kerr, Yuriy Yurchuk and Chantelle Grant, who were joined by Joseph Calleja and Sondra Radvanovsky for the tribute's moving conclusion.
Television host and political commentator Bill O'Reilly spoke of his role model, Academy Award and multiple Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Herbie Hancock, stating, "Herbie Hancock is a remarkable artist and a remarkable American, so we start his tribute there. Over the years I've talked with Herbie a few times. I don't hang with him... because I don't want to ruin his reputation. When I do see him, I'm always impressed by his serenity, his modesty, his politeness. And believe me, I need that kind of role model... Here's my history with jazz: When I was a young man, I pretended to like it. It just seemed cool... Then suddenly jazz seemed to change. And the instrument of that change I noticed - the whole music world noticed - was Herbie Hancock. There is no way I am qualified to speak about music... I just know what I like. But I do know innovation. Herbie was never an imitator. He moved on to create his own unique sound. And he didn't stop there. He's still doing it."
O'Reilly continued, "Herbie's status as an artist with an international following has allowed him to travel the world, entertaining millions. His overseas exposure has always reflected well on his country, something I also care deeply about. He is a true gentleman. His fame and skill reflect the values that have made America great... hard work... creativity... respect for yourself and others. Herbie Hancock rebelled against the status quo in music; he never rebelled against humanity. It's that embracing of what is good in mankind that infuses Herbie's music and makes him a national icon. He says, 'I realized that if I perceive myself as a musician, somehow there's an invisible barrier between myself and people who aren't musicians. But if I define myself as a human being, all the barriers disappear.' True. Humble. To the point. That's Herbie Hancock."
A rousing array of jazz standards opened the performance segment of the evening, beginning with "Walkin'" and "Watermelon Man," with multiple Grammy Award winner Wayne Shorter on saxophone, multiple Grammy Award-winning pianist Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette on drums, Grammy Award-winning bassist Dave Holland, and multiple Grammy Award winner Terence Blanchard on trumpet. This was quickly succeeded by another group of remarkable musicians playing "Cantaloupe Island," including Grammy Award winner Teri Lyne Carrington on drums, along with jazz musicians Wayne Shorter, James Genus, Aaron Parks, Joshua Redman, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Michael Bearden, Vinnie Colaiuta and Lionel Loueke. Then, yet another band of musicians performed "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)" and "Rockit," including Grammy Award winner Marcus Miller on bass, with Snoop Dogg and DJ Mix Master Mike joining in with a special rap written for the occasion. All of the musicians united together for the upbeat finale of "Chameleon."
Multiple Grammy Award and Emmy Award-winning musical icon Tony Bennett, a 2005 Kennedy Center Honoree, spoke eloquently about multiple Grammy Award-winning recording artist Billy Joel. "I came of age with the legacy of the Great American Songbook, created by the likes of George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, and interpreted by Frank, Ella, Nat Cole and me. The whole world loves these songs. But times change, and there was an opening for another Songbook - one that could reflect and celebrate its own times. Enter Billy Joel. Billy Joel's an exciting performer who can move and electrify audiences. And he does it singing the song of... Billy Joel. Great songs on subjects from love to war, from triumph to loss, and stories about ordinary people with extraordinary emotions. He did it in styles from ballads to folk, from street-corner a capella to the richness of the best pop from the '30s and '40s. And he puts them to tunes you can't get out of your head."
Bennett continued, "What a thrill for me to perform with Billy in front of 110,000 of our fellow New Yorkers at Shea Stadium, singing his 'New York State of Mind.' Billy Joel is also creating a legacy through education. He visits schools throughout the country. I'm grateful that he spent time with students at a public high school I founded in New York City - the Frank Sinatra School for the Arts. Billy Joel is so much more than the piano man he wrote about, who sings to audiences in the mood for a melody... and he has them feeling all right. Billy Joel is no less than the poet/performer/philosopher of today's American Songbook."
The musical homage to Billy Joel commenced with singer Brendon Urie from "Panic! at the Disco" singing a rock-infused rendition of "Big Shot," succeeded by multiple Grammy Award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Don Henley performing a touching version of Joel's famous song, "She's Got a Way." Then Grammy Award-winning recording artist Garth Brooks took the stage to perform a medley of Joel's hits, "Only The Good Die Young," "Allentown" and "Goodnight Saigon," that left not a dry eye in the house. Finally, Grammy nominee Rufus Wainwright sang Joel's iconic songs "New York State of Mind" and "Piano Man," giving an amazing performance that brought the evening of entertainment to its rousing conclusion.
THE 36TH ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS is a production of the Kennedy Center. George Stevens, Jr. and his Honors producing partner Michael Stevens will again produce and write the Honors. They have received five consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Variety, Musical or Comedy Special. The Kennedy Center Honors telecast has also been recognized with the Peabody Award for Outstanding Meritorious Service to Broadcasting and seven awards from the Writers Guild of America. George Stevens created the Honors in 1978 with Nick Vanoff.