Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Justino Díaz, Berry Gordy, Lorne Michaels, Bette Midler and Joni Mitchell to Receive 44th Kennedy Center Honors

pixeltracker

The Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

Justino Díaz, Berry Gordy, Lorne Michaels, Bette Midler and Joni Mitchell to Receive 44th Kennedy Center Honors

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts today announced the selection of five Honorees who will receive the 44th Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime artistic achievements. Recipients to be honored at the annual national celebration of the arts in Washington, D.C. are: operatic bass-baritone Justino Díaz, Motown founder, songwriter, producer, and director Berry Gordy, Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, legendary stage and screen icon Bette Midler, and singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.

"The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates luminaries whose art and creativity have enriched us beyond measure," stated Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein. "With his distinguished, deeply resonant voice and storied operatic career, Justino Díaz, stood on the stages of the world's great opera houses and today stands as one of the greatest bass-baritones of our time; visionary music producer and songwriter Berry Gordy brought the quintessential soulfulness of Detroit into every home in America , elevating the Motown sound to become a national treasure; Lorne Michaels created the most enduring 'must-see television' with Saturday Night Live, a show that is both mirror and muse for life in America; an artistic tour de force and America's Divine Miss M, Bette Midler has enjoyed an unrivaled and prolific career, entertaining millions with her wondrous voice and trademark comedic wit; and songstress Joni Mitchell, blends raw, deeply personal lyrics with her stunningly ethereal voice in 19 albums, becoming one of the most influential singer-songwriters and cultural figures in 20th-century popular music."

"This year's Honorees represent the unifying power of the Arts and surely remind us of that which binds us together as human beings. These artists are equal parts genius, inspiration, and entertainment," said Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. "After the challenges and heartbreak of the last many months, and as we celebrate 50 years of the Kennedy Center, I dare add that we are prepared to throw 'the party to end all parties' in D.C. on December 5th, feting these extraordinary people and welcoming audiences back to our campus. We look forward to shaping an even more exciting Honors program and broadcast with CBS and the producers based on the success and newfound innovations of our 43rd Honors earlier this year."

Throughout its 43-year history, the annual Honors Gala has become the highlight of the Washington cultural and society calendar, and its national broadcast on CBS is a high point of the television season. On Sunday, December 5, in a star-studded celebration on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage, produced by Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment, the 44th class of Kennedy Center Honorees will be saluted by today's leading performers from New York, Hollywood, and the arts capitals of the world. Seated once again in the Box Tier of the iconic Kennedy Center Opera House, the Honorees will accept the recognition and gratitude of their peers through performances and tributes. The 44th Kennedy Center Honors Gala concludes with a dinner in the Grand Foyer.

The Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on the CBS Television Network at a later date for the 44th consecutive year as a two-hour primetime special and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

White Cherry Entertainment has been well known for producing the perennial award-winning Tony Awards® for the last 19 years, as well as having their hand in most major award and variety shows on network television over the years, and now, has led the charge in keeping variety television alive and innovative during the pandemic. Along with the reimagined 43rd Kennedy Center Honors in the spring, both Kirshner and Weiss have become industry leaders in conceiving and executing many Covid-era productions including this year's Emmy®-nominated Celebrating America the Inaugural Evening Celebration, The Democratic National Convention, Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest, and several other major events and awards shows all of which had to be reimagined from concept to broadcast. To date, White Cherry has won nine Emmy® awards together and individually received an additional six Emmy® awards, eight Directors Guild Awards, a Peabody Award and over 40 Emmy® nominations. This is the seventh consecutive year White Cherry will produce the Kennedy Center Honors.

ViacomCBS is the Exclusive Sponsor of the Kennedy Center Honors.

Boeing is the Exclusive Underwriter of the Kennedy Center Honors Gala.

Delta Air Lines is the Official Airline of the Kennedy Center Honors.

The Kennedy Center Honors Founding Producer is George Stevens, Jr.

The Honors recipients are recognized for their contributions to American culture through the performing arts-whether in music, dance, theater, opera, motion pictures, or television-and are confirmed by the Executive Committee of the Center's Board of Trustees. The primary criterion in the selection process is excellence. The Honors are not designated by art form or category of artistic achievement; the selection process, over the years, has produced balance among the various arts and artistic disciplines.

The Honoree selection process includes solicitation of recommendations from the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees, the artistic community, and the general public. This year's selected Honorees were chosen based on the recommendation of the Center's Special Honors Advisory Committee, which is chaired by David Bohnett and includes David M. Rubenstein, Deborah F. Rutter, Michael Lombardo, Cappy McGarr, and Shonda Rhimes, along with past Honors recipients and distinguished artists Julie Andrews, Gloria Estefan, Herbie Hancock, Judith Jamison, and John Williams. These individuals play a critical role in the evaluation and selection process, and the Kennedy Center is indebted to them for their involvement.

44TH KENNEDY CENTER HONOREE STATEMENTS

"I'm deeply grateful to be receiving this Honor. It is especially thrilling for me because 50 years ago I sang as the male lead in Ginastera's Beatrix Cenci on the Opera House stage at the Kennedy Center's grand opening-the night after Bernstein's Mass. I was the first operatic voice to christen the walls of this wonderful institution all those years ago and I am beyond honored to return to this stage to have such a distinction bestowed on me. I am humbled as I assume my place amongst so many wonderful peers and talented artists." -Justino Díaz

"The Arts not only give voice to the voiceless, but connect us, transform us, and soothe our souls. The Kennedy Center Honors epitomizes the recognition and value of both the Arts, and the Artist. I am thrilled to become a part of this prestigious American legacy. Growing up in Detroit, I was not only Black but the "black sheep" of my family. I was a failure at everything I did until I was 29 years old, while my younger brother Robert was not only a family favorite, but strangely, a favorite of mine as well. He inspired me with his loyalty, love, and graciousness. Throughout the years I've been blessed with many wonderful memories, but this-the Kennedy Center Honors-is one that will be forever in my heart. Thank you." -Berry Gordy

"The Kennedy Center's commitment to the performing arts has always been an important force in American culture. Being acknowledged here and included in this company is an honor in the truest sense. I am deeply grateful." -Lorne Michaels

"I am profoundly touched by this honor, in fact, I am stunned and grateful beyond words. For many years I have watched this broadcast celebrating the best talent in the performing arts that America has to offer, and I truly never imagined that I would find myself among these swans. Thank you to the Kennedy Center for recognizing me, and my heartfelt thanks to everyone who put me here." -Bette Midler

"I'm grateful to the Kennedy Center for bestowing this honor on my work and I look forward to being a part of this prestigious celebration of the arts. I wish my mother and father were alive to see this. It's a long way from Saskatoon." -Joni Mitchell


Related Articles

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

More Hot Stories For You