The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced the selection of five honorees who will receive the 44th Kennedy Center Honors for their lifetime artistic achievements on Wednesday.
“This year’s honorees represent the unifying power of the arts and surely remind us of that which binds us together as human beings,” Kennedy Center president Deborah F. Rutter said. “These artists are equal parts genius, inspiration and entertainment.”
Rutter continued, “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 DC on Dec. 5th, feting these extraordinary people and welcoming audiences back to our campus.”
Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein made the Wednesday announcement, identifying the honorees’ accolades that led to this momentous occasion.
The Puerto Rican bass-baritone, 81, is most known for his “distinguished, deeply resonant voice and storied operatic career,” Rubenstein said. He also noted that Díaz has performed on the stages of the world’s great opera houses and remains as “one of the greatest bass-baritones of our time.”
A “visionary music producer and songwriter” and the founder of Motown, Gordy, 91, is known for creating and developing the careers of former Kennedy Center honorees including Diana Ross, Lionel Richie and Smokey Robinson. He also had his hand in the success of countless other Motown musicians like the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, the Jackson 5 and Marvin Gaye.
As the creator and executive producer of “Saturday Night Live,” 76-year-old Michaels created the most enduring “must-see television,” Rubenstein noted, making it the most Emmy-nominated show in history. Michaels is also known for producing a variety of comedic hits on the small screen like “30 Rock” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”), movies including “Wayne’s World” and “Baby Mama” as well as the stage with Broadway’s “Mean Girls.”
“America’s Divine Miss M,” as Rubenstein called her, Midler, 75, has spent 60 years on-screen and onstage. The “artistic tour de force” has received multiple Tony, Emmy and Grammy awards and nine American Comedy Awards, all while “entertaining millions with her wondrous voice and trademark comedic wit,” he added.
Joni Mitchell, the Canadian-born singer-songwriter, will be celebrating this honor along with the 50th anniversary of her landmark album, “Blue.” Mitchell, 77, is known for her ability to blend “raw, deeply personal lyrics with her stunningly ethereal voice,” Rubenstein said. Mitchell has released and recorded 19 albums, making the singer-songwriter one of the most influential cultural figures in 20th-century popular music.
The 44th ceremony will be the second to air this year as the 2020 ceremony was delayed by the pandemic. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will be in attendance after former President Trump did not attend the ceremonies during his administration.