The music is playing, the President is sitting back on the balcony and Kennedy Center Honors was once again a lavish private affair at the opera house complete with proof of vaccinations, negative PCR and masks for all attendees Sunday night. Motown far-sighted Berry Gordy, Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell, popular bass/baritone singer Justino Diaz and Saturday night live creator Lorne Michaels held at 44NS incarnation of the event honoring lifetime artistic achievement.
To mark the anniversary, Stevie Wonder held a mini concert featuring Motown hits including “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Superstition,” and a custom “I Just Called To Say I Love” You”. Brandi Carlile performed an enchanting version of “River” from her recent Carnegie Hall performance. Paul Simon, Smokey Robinson, Ellie Goulding, Billy Porter and Brittany Howard were all in the house.
Gordy, 92, borrowed $800 from her family to start what would become a music and entertainment powerhouse that would bring to the world more than just Diana Ross & the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye , Smokey Robinson and many others but also became a catalyst for bridging racial divisions.
He was modest as he spoke with his newly worn rainbow lanyard as he made his way into the theatre. “Every artist is very special. I have no words but love for the people who have supported me and many of them who fought, cried, lived and died to make Motown. It’s not just me; that’s all those people. And some secret people you don’t hear about,” he said.
Gordy and Robinson have an unprecedented “bromance”—Robinson, officially, used the word amusingly to describe their relationship when speaking to Billboards Sunday night – that often finds its way to the stage, where they have a chance to sing praises to each other. This year’s title is no exception. Robinson entertained the audience with the story behind how they made his first #1 hit “Shop Around,” and sang a song he wrote a year ago to celebrate their friendship, just the second time he performed publicly.
Andra Day, the cast of Broadway’s’ Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptation, and Wonder have breathed considerable life into the chambers of politicians and arts patrons, who have convened to find a show that’s gotten more polished and more Hollywood-ish each year.
David Letterman opened the evening — which last year was envisioned differently due to COVID-19 and Donald Trump never attended during his tenure in the White House, by noting, “Tonight, it was great to see The President’s box was once again occupied. ” Then, after a lengthy standing ovation from the audience for President Joe Biden, Letterman looked up and added, “So is the Oval Office.”
Mitchell, 78, whose songbook rivals Bob Dylan in its influence, recently hit the 50th markNS celebrate her iconic album Blue (catalyst for the song “Tangled Up In Blue” by the later artist). The 78-year-old is having a successful season, after recovering from a brain aneurysm in 2015 and not making a public appearance for several years. Not only was she an honoree at the Kennedy Center, but she was also named MusiCares Person of the Year in January.
“It’s great that this is happening right now; she wrote a lot of beauty into the world,” says Judy Collins, who scored her first hit with “Both Sides Now,” said. Billboards on the red carpet. “People of all musical genres have tried a song by Joni Mitchell. I was lucky, I started it”.
Collins recalls receiving a call at 3 a.m. from a mutual friend in the band Blood Sweat & Tears who had accompanied Mitchell after a club performance. “He put her on the phone, she sang me ‘Both Sides Now,’ and then we met and started exchanging life stories and songs. The album is called wildflowers and the first three songs I wrote were on that album as well,” Collins said of the 1967 release. “So it was kind of a real gift from another place to have it all happen together.”
In addition to Carlile, whose performance of “River” was a great part of her recent Carnegie Hall performance of Blue in its entirety, Mitchell heard from Howard, who performed “Both Sides Now”; Goulding, who delivered a delightful “Golden Taxi”; and Norah Jones, who played the piano and sang an ensemble of Mitchell tunes. Story shared by Canadian Dan Levy who remembers his mother buying his copy Blue date of its release, and filmmaker Cameron Crowe.
Midler, 76, who has sold more than 30 million records and won four Grammy Awards, three Emmy Awards, two Tonys and two Oscar nominations, is the definition of a multi-hyphen entertainer.
Her performance of the night featured an ensemble focus on “Love Is On the Way” by Porter, whose talent Midler was at the heart of when she featured the song in her 1996 film. The First Wives Club; music from Hello Dolly! the cast includes Beanie Feldstein; and tributes from Goldie Hawn, Scarlett Johansson and Melissa Manchester, who recall when Barry Manilow introduced her to Midler while they were performing at neighborhood nightclubs in New York.
Tony Award-winning actress Kelli O’Hara stirred the audience’s emotions with her performance “Wind Under My Wings. “The ballad left a lot of emotions for the audience who watched the 1998 movie Beach, in which Midler co-stars Barbara Hershey sobbing. Hershey told Billboards Show it before it has the same effect behind the scenes.
“Before filming, Bette played it for me and I loved it,” she said. “And then when we shot the scene where I died, and there were no words in the scene, so they played that song because there were no lines. And when I opened my eyes at the end of the scene, the whole crew cried. When I saw the crew’s reaction to the song, I thought ‘Wow, we’re keeping that.’ ”
For his part, true to humorous form, Midler, who just celebrated his 78th anniversaryNS birthday, said this on the red carpet about the medal ceremony the night before and the visit to the White House. “It’s very clean, the staff is great, the food is great, the wine is a bit sweet.”
This year’s Diaz selection was well choreographed, as the Kennedy Center is celebrating 50NS celebrations and musicals and screen motives were performed on stage in the theater as the male lead in Ginastera’s Beatrix Cenci for the opening of the Center.
Born in Puerto Rico, Diaz, 81, made the mistake of performing musically in high school and rose to become one of the most acclaimed bass voices in opera. In addition to helping inaugurate the Kennedy Center, he also performed at the premiere of the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center in 1966, one of 400 shows at the Metropolitan. His tribute is operatic splendor, including a performance from Carmen.
The stage turned into a satellite campus of NBC’s studio 8H to pay tribute to Michaels, 77, creator of the longest running variety show on television and the most Emmy-nominated show in history as a list desires of the present and the past SNL Talents come to pay their respects. Among them were Steve Martin, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Pete Davidson, Kenan Thompson and Jimmy Fallon, who praised Michaels’ unique ability to identify and engage top musical guests.
“Name the most fascinating acts and you will find them on Saturday night live,” Fallon said during his stay. “Over the years, some of the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll and pop music – and artists set to burn the charts – have all accepted his invitation to perform. If you are the music of the moment, you are on Saturday night live. ” Simon, the show’s musical guest on its second episode in 1975, performed the acoustic version of “America” to mark the occasion.
SNL alum Kevin Nealon told Billboards before the show hit, he recalled some of the musical guests during his tenure, surprising the cast and crew with their generosity. “Eric Clapton and Paul Simon and a few others actually stayed after the show and put on a little studio concert,” he said.
Michaels’ segment also includes three Honor-themed incarnations of SNL Organization weekend updates, provided by Nealon in turn; Amy Pohler and Seth Meyers; and current desk duo Michael Che and Colin Jost.
https://www.billboard.com/music/music-news/motown-berry-gordy-bette-midler-joni-mitchell-kennedy-center-honors-1235006080/ Berry Gordy, Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell Receive Kennedy Center Honors – Billboard