Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell, Lorne Michaels, Berry Gordy and Justino Díaz are the latest crop of honorees at the Kennedy Center Honors, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced Wednesday.
The Kennedy Center Honors will honor the five individuals as part of its 44th edition, which will be the second event this year after the previous crop of honorees was recognized in a hybrid live and virtual tribute in May. The 44th Kennedy Center Honors will take place in a gala event at the Kennedy Center Opera House on Dec. 5.
The ceremony will be broadcast in a two-hour prime-time special on CBS at a date to still be determined. The event will also be available to stream on Paramount+.
Midler is a two-time Oscar nominee, and her career as a beloved entertainer, actress and singer has spread across six decades.
Mitchell is one of the most influential and iconic singer-songwriters of her generation. She has won nine Grammys and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Michaels is the longtime producer of "Saturday Night Live" and countless other TV shows and films. He's won 19 Primetime Emmys and holds the record for the individual with the most nominations ever.
Díaz is the operatic bass-baritone who has been performing opera since 1957. He was the first Puerto Rican to win an annual contest at the Metropolitan Opera of New York in 1963, making his stage debut in Verdi's "Rigoletto" later that year.
Gordy is the founder of the Motown record label who has been credited with creating the iconic "Motown Sound," crossing racial boundaries and helping to transform popular music forever.
“The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates luminaries whose art and creativity have enriched us beyond measure,” Kennedy Center chairman David M. Rubenstein said in a statement. “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,” Kennedy Center president Deborah F. Rutter said in a statement. “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 5, 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.”
The honorees for the 43rd class of the Kennedy Center Honors included Dick Van Dyke, Midori, Debbie Allen, Joan Baez and Garth Brooks.
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.
Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment will executive produce the special for the seventh consecutive year. Weiss returns as director. The Kennedy Center Honors Founding Producer is George Stevens Jr.