Washington – Music legend Elton John, opera diva Joan Sutherland and conductor John Williams – along with actors Warren Beatty, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee – were being honored Sunday with a star-studded tribute at The Kennedy Center.
The six recipients of the 27th annual Kennedy Center Honors were being saluted for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts.
First lady Laura Bush greeted the honorees – as well as actors Louis Gossett Jr., Robert Downey Jr. and Bo Derek – at a reception at the White House Sunday afternoon. Later, President and Mrs. Bush were honored guests at the gala event.
John, 57, has sold more than 60 million albums in three decades with hits such as “Rocket Man” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”
Winning the honor “is about the icing on the cake,” John said Sunday as he walked into the White House reception. “It’s incredible for someone who’s British to be given such an accolade from America, which has given me so much already in my career.”
Australian-born soprano Sutherland, 78, has been called “perhaps the most beautiful voice of the 20th century.”
Composer and conductor Williams, 72, has won five Academy Awards, 17 Grammys and two Emmys and is best known for his film scores for “Jaws,” the “Star Wars” trilogy, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “E.T.”
Beatty, 67, is an actor, writer, producer and director. He has been nominated for Academy Awards 15 times, and won an Oscar in 1982 as best director for “Reds.”
Kennedy Center officials said husband-and-wife acting team Davis, 86, and Dee, 80, “have thrown open many a door previously shut tight to African-American artists.”
Dee has appeared in films and plays including Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” In 1965 she became the first African-American woman to play major roles in the American Shakespeare Festival.
Davis was cited for a half-century career as a playwright, screenwriter, director, producer and actor, including the 1970 film “Cotton Comes to Harlem.” He is also known for delivering the eulogy at Malcolm X’s 1965 funeral.