© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Music Of All Kinds Was Celebrated At 41st Kennedy Center Honors


Now we hear a little of the Kennedy Center Honors. It's the annual celebration of the performing arts. And NPR's Lynn Neary was there.

LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: It was the kind of night where you could see pop icon Cyndi Lauper and jazz great Dee Dee Bridgewater sharing a hug on the red carpet. And Kelly Clarkson was thrilled to find herself standing next to Cher as the cameras clicked. Even Cher seemed impressed by it all and surprised to find herself one of the honorees.

CHER: I never expected to win this. It's like, I was OK with the Academy Award. I thought, yeah, I can rock this. Like, I think when I saw Meryl, I thought, yeah, that makes sense, you know? And I don't seem to make that much sense.

NEARY: The Kennedy Center Honor is traditionally a lifetime achievement award. In a break from that tradition, the co-creators of "Hamilton," Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Andy Blankenbuehler and Alex Lacamoire were awarded the honor for what the Kennedy Center described as a groundbreaking and transformative work. Lin-Manuel Miranda hopes this becomes a new tradition.

LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: I'm excited, and I hope they keep doing it. I love the notion of honoring work that is affecting people now.

NEARY: Among those who were honored last night was country music star Reba McEntire. McEntire is also an actress, perhaps best known for her sitcom "Reba." Her co-star on the show, Melissa Peterman, paid tribute to McEntire.


MELISSA PETERMAN: Reba, you were born to tell the world stories with your music, on a stage, on a screen. And on behalf of Earth...


PETERMAN: ...And from worlds beyond...


PETERMAN: ...Thank you so much for sharing those gifts with us.

NEARY: Philip Glass is known for what he describes as music with repetitive structures. Last night, Paul Simon called him our most influential classical composer as he introduced pianist Jon Batiste playing a solo from "Glassworks."


NEARY: Herbie Hancock paid tribute to jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who the Kennedy Center described as one of the world's greatest composers. Hancock said there are lots of ways to describe his friend.

HERBIE HANCOCK: Magical, mysterious, visionary, fearless, courageous, profound.

NEARY: Usually honorees remain in the audience at the Kennedy Center Awards. But in another break from tradition last night, Lin-Manuel Miranda took to the stage to perform a number from "Hamilton" with original cast member Chris Jackson.


CHRIS JACKSON: (As George Washington, singing) I need a favor.

MIRANDA: (As Alexander Hamilton, singing) Whatever you say, sir. Jefferson will pay for his behavior.

JACKSON: (As George Washington, singing) Shh. Talk less.

MIRANDA: (As Alexander Hamilton, singing) I'll use the press. I'll write under a pseudonym. You'll see what I can do to him.

NEARY: And finally, Whoopi Goldberg, dressed in a sequined, black caftan which she quipped she found in Cher's closet, paid tribute to the singer.


WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Elvis, Sinatra, Cher. There have been a handful of entertainers who are instantly recognizable by just one name.

NEARY: As the night ended, the audience was on its feet as Cyndi Lauper and Adam Lambert sang one of Cher's biggest hits.


ADAM LAMBERT AND CYNDI LAUPER: (Singing) I got you, babe.

CYNDI LAUPER: Come on, sing.

LAMBERT AND LAUPER: (Singing) I got you, babe.

NEARY: Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.


ADAM LAMBERT: (Singing) In the spring. I got you to wear my ring. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lynn Neary is an NPR arts correspondent covering books and publishing.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.