George Clooney, Gladys Knight and U2 among 2022 Kennedy Center Honorees

WASHINGTON (AP) — It will be a “Great Day” for U2 and four other artists when they receive this year’s Kennedy Center Honors in December.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced Thursday that the Irish rock band, along with the actor George Clooneysingers Gladys Knight and Amy Grant and composer Tanya Leon are honored this year.

The Center typically awards five individuals each year for influencing American culture through the arts. But bands and other bands get honors sometimes too. disco funk band Earth, Wind and Fire was the last, in 2019, to honor the long-running children’s television show Sesame Street. Eagles were featured in 2016 and Led Zeppelin in 2012.

Kennedy Center president Deborah F. Rutter said in an interview that her group “worked really hard to think about, do we include all of the performing arts?” when presenting the awards. In particular, she singled out Grant’s music as a separate genre presented this year.

“We already had the gospel. We had a lot of R&B and soul. … We had country music, but we didn’t necessarily have Amy Grant and Christian pop in the same way,” she said, comparing Grant’s inclusion to honoring the center. LE Cool Jay in 2017, for the first time, a hip-hop artist was among the laureates.

This is the 45th year of the awards, which will include a gala in December. 4 in Washington DC featuring top artists. The show will air on CBS at a later date.

Rutter said the award “is not related to a single work that has become popular this year. Or one movie. Or one part of the choreography.” It’s about life’s achievements.

Let’s take a look at this year’s winners:

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Rutter said she was told that U2 frontman Bono was eating and dropped her fork when told the group had been chosen for the honor. But it took the band a while to make a decision because Bono needed to find his bandmates – The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr. — buy, and they are not all in one place, — said Rutter.

U2 has sold 170 million albums and won 22 Grammy Awards. The group’s epic singles include “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday”.

In a statement thanking the Kennedy Center, the band noted that they played their first concert in America in New York City in 1980. The second concert was in Washington.

“We had big dreams back then, fueled in part by the widespread belief that America was smiling at Ireland. And it turned out to be true again. But even in our wildest thoughts, we never thought that 40 years later we would be invited again to receive one of the nation’s greatest awards,” the group said in a statement, calling the United States a “home away from home.”

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Clooney, who played the conniving thief Danny Ocean in Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels, won’t need to come up with any scheme to take home the Kennedy Center award.

The 61-year-old actor-director has won two Oscars – for Best Supporting Actor in Siriana and as producer of the Best Picture winner Argo – and has appeared in films such as “Oh brother, where are you?” “Up in the Air”, “Michael Collins” and “The Descendants”.

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Knight, 78, is the only recipient of this year’s awards to speak at the Kennedy Center Awards. In 2021, the eight-time Grammy winner sang Garth Brooks’ “We Shall Be Free” in honor of the country singer who wiped one of her eyes and blew her kisses after her performance.

Knight, who has recorded soul classics like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia” with her backup band The Pips, said she never expected to be on the other side of the stage. When she learned that the Kennedy Center wanted to honor her memory, she said, she replied, “What?”

“I just couldn’t believe it, and here we are,” she said in an interview.

“I like what people think of me. I don’t take things like that for granted,” she said.

Knight joined Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Dionne Warwick for the 1985 hit “That’s What Friends Are For”. Wonder was honored by the Kennedy Center in 1999 and by John in 2004.

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Six-time Grammy winner Grant has already had a big year. Her daughter Millie, who inspired her 1991 hit “Baby Baby”, gave birth to a daughter, Penelope Willow.

The Christian music star has two more grandchildren with her husband’s daughter, country musician Vince Gill.

Grant, 61, said in an interview that when she heard from the Kennedy Center, she first thought they wanted to honor Gill. “He has spoken several times at the Kennedy Center Awards. I’ve never even been to the ceremony. I was never his plus, ”she said.

The singer, also known for the songs “Every Heartbeat” and “That’s What Love Is For”, has her roots in gospel music but found a large following after the release of her 1991 album Heart in Motion.

Grant said she currently has two songs that she is going to record in the studio, including a Christmas song that will be part of the Hallmark movie. “Like many good songs, it came from a therapy session,” she said.

Grant said one of the things that currently “energizes me at this point in my life is creating conversation circles that help solve problems” like disenfranchisement and homelessness in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. .

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Composer and conductor Leon has worked with the Kennedy Center several times, so she said she didn’t think it was “something spectacular” when she received an email asking her to call. She was stunned into silence when she was told that the center wanted to honor her memory.

Leon, 79, said it was the second time she had been “slightly paralyzed” by a phone call. The other one was a call to tell her she won Pulitzer Prize 2021 in music for her orchestral work “Stride”.

Born in Havana, Leon is a founding member of the Dance Theater of Harlem and has been a guest conductor with orchestras around the world. Leon said she is currently working on a short solo piece that will premiere next week, as well as an orchestral piece. She’s happy to be busy, she said, explaining that her mantra is “We’ll be dead for a long time.”

“We have to live to the fullest and do our best while we are alive,” she said.