The 44th Kennedy Center Honors returned to traditions this year, to honor artists for their contributions to American culture.
The awards were presented last night in Washington, after changes and delays to last year's plans because of the pandemic. President Joe Biden joined the celebration, after former President Donald Trump skipped the ceremony for all four years in the White House.
Rock journalist and director Cameron Crowe paid tribute to honoree singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. "For any mood or emotional crossroad where you might find yourself, there is a Joni Mitchell song," he said.
Brandi Carlile was among the artists who performed some of Mitchell's best-known songs, including "River."
The evening also featured tributes to opera singer Justino Diaz.
Singer Denyce Graves said of Diaz, "It is for no single performance, but for the collective body of his staggering career, that we honor Justino tonight."
And "Saturday Night Live" creator Lorne Michaels was celebrated – and roasted – by current and former "SNL" cast members.
During a mock "Weekend Update" segment, Amy Poehler said, "This Kennedy Center Honor is a long time coming for Lorne, since he said he would only accept it when JLo and Ben got back together."
Legendary stage and screen icon Bette Midler was paid tribute by actress Goldie Hawn, who said, "She can make us laugh and cry, even at the same time, and that is the mark of an artist of the highest caliber."
Broadway star Kelli O'Hara performed "Wind Beneath My Wings," a song "The Divine Miss M" recorded for the movie "Beaches" that rose to #1 on the charts.
Songwriter and record producer Berry Gordy, who founded the Motown record label, was also honored, with performances by Stevie Wonder (including "Superstition") that had the opera house in a standing ovation.
The awards ceremony will be broadcast December 22 on CBS, and streamed on Paramount+.
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