Dec 8, 2019: Linda Ronstadt Gets Kennedy Center Honors

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Sally Field, Michael Tilson Thomas, Linda Ronstadt, Sesame Street, and Earth, Wind & Fire were selected for 2019 Kennedy Center Honors

Linda Ronstadt and Earth, Wind & Fire were among the five Honorees who received the 2019 Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime artistic achievements, at the annual event on Dec. 8. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced the selection on July 18 of the 2019 recipients honored at the 42nd annual national celebration of the arts. The others were actress Sally Field, children’s television program Sesame Street, and conductor and musical visionary Michael Tilson Thomas.

Don Henley was a special guest for Ronstadt’s tribute. “The first time I heard Linda Ronstadt sing, everything stopped,” he said. Carrie Underwood sang “Blue Bayou” and “When Will I Be Loved.”

Later, Trisha Yearwood and Aaron Neville teamed for “Don’t Know Much,” a #2 hit for Ronstadt and Neville in 1989.

Watch an interview with Ronstadt talking about the surprises at the event

Listen to the song that first introduced us to Ronstadt

Earth, Wind & Fire were represented by members Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson. John Legend, the Jonas Brothers, and others performed “September.”

Paying tribute to Field were Tom Hanks, who starred with her in Forrest Gump, and Steven Spielberg, who directed her in Lincoln.

Watch highlights of the event, released in advance of the broadcast

“The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates icons who, through their artistry, have left an indelible stamp on our collective cultural consciousness,” stated Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein in the original announcement, calling Ronstadt “the defining voice of a generation, spanning genres, languages, and continents.”

It continued: “Earth, Wind & Fire’s hooks and grooves are the foundation of a seminal style that continues to shape our musical landscape; Sally Field has brought us unforgettable characters, both joyous and poignant, for more than five decades; Sesame Street continues to revolutionize how children and adults learn about our world; and Michael Tilson Thomas goes far beyond keeping score: he has shaped American music and musical institutions for the 21st century.”

The 42nd annual Kennedy Center Honors marked the first time a television program received the award. The co-founders of Sesame Street, Joan Ganz Cooney and Dr. Lloyd Morrisett, accepted the Kennedy Center Honors on behalf of the show, Muppets creator Jim Henson, seminal Muppets artists Caroll Spinney and Frank Oz, and the thousands of creatives who have built the program’s 50-year legacy.

Related: Spinney, the puppeteer and voice of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, died on the day of the award ceremony

Pictured at the Dec. 8 Kennedy Center Honors are members of Earth, Wind & Fire, Linda Ronstadt and Sally Field

The Kennedy Center Honors medallions were presented on Saturday, Dec. 7, the night before the Gala, at a State Department dinner.

On Dec. 8, in a star-studded celebration on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage, the 2019 Honorees were saluted by leading performers from New York, Hollywood, and the arts capitals of the world. Seated in the Box Tier of the iconic Kennedy Center Opera House, the Honorees accepted the recognition and gratitude of their peers through performances and tributes.

Watch a preview of the event

Ronstadt, born July 15, 1946, is arguably the most versatile vocalist of the modern era, having forged a four-decade career which established her as one of the very important artists in one of the most creative periods in the history of modern music. She has broadened the latitudes of the pop singer, expanding the vocalist’s canvas to include country, rock ‘n’ roll, big band, jazz, opera, Broadway standards, and Mexican and Afro- Cuban influences. With worldwide album sales of more than 50 million, at least 31 gold and platinum records, and 10 Grammy Awards®, Ronstadt is the consummate American artist.

Related: A rare interview with Linda Ronstadt

Ronstadt sang her last concert in 2009, and shortly thereafter announced her retirement from singing. Unlike most retirements, however, Ronstadt’s has been quite busy. Released in 2013, her book, Simple Dreams, A Musical Memoir, made the New York Times best-seller list and kicked off an extensive book tour. In December of 2013, Ronstadt was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and during the summer of 2014, she was honored by President Barack Obama, who awarded her the National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony on July 28, 2014. From 2014 to late 2018, Ronstadt toured occasionally with her highly acclaimed one-woman show, A Conversation with Linda Ronstadt. Featuring photos, audio, and selected video, Ronstadt recounted episodes from various times in her long career, as well as her thoughts on music and what it has meant in her life.

With a career that has spanned more than five decades, Field is a two-time Academy Award® and three-time Emmy Award®–winning actress, who has portrayed dozens of iconic roles on both large and small screens.

Watch Field’s reaction to the evening

Highlights from her extensive film credits include Lincoln; Forrest Gump; Steel Magnolias; Places in the Heart; Absence of Malice; Norma Rae; Mrs. Doubtfire; and Punchline. Her TV roles include Sybil, Gidget, and ER, and most recently the Netflix series Maniac.

“You like me!”

Over their five-decade history, Earth, Wind & Fire has sold out concerts all around the globe, scored eight #1 hits, and sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, making them one of the best-selling musical groups of all time. The group has won nine Grammy Awards® including one for Lifetime Achievement in 2012. In 2000, EWF was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, cementing their lasting impact on popular music.

The Honors recipients recognized for their contributions to American culture through the performing arts—whether in music, dance, theater, opera, motion pictures, or television—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. The 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, Martina Arroyo, Gloria Estefan, Herbie Hancock, Twyla Tharp, and John Williams.

Best Classic Bands Staff

2 Comments so far

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  1. RecordSteve
    #1 RecordSteve 15 December, 2019, 15:34

    Thanks for preview of tonight’s honors = wish I could’ve been in that # to experience it live!

    Reply this comment
  2. JCB
    #2 JCB 9 December, 2020, 12:00

    Linda was simply the best female singer of her generation, it’s not even close. When I saw here in 77 and again in 78 she was the biggest concert draw in rock. In 78 she sold out the Superdome, that show was unbelievable. Her bands were full of legends, just breathtaking. She blew the roof off. There will never be another Linda, she could sing anything and she did.

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