WASHINGTON: Al Pacino, The Eagles, James Taylor, gospel and blues singer Mavis Staples and Argentine pianist Martha Argerich were celebrated Sunday for their lifetime achievements at the last major arts gala attended by President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.
It was a bittersweet moment, with Obama making one of his final goodbyes to celebrated artists as president.
“This is a joyous day. It’s the best Christmas present!” Staples told AFP on the red carpet about receiving a Kennedy Center Honor, considered the nation’s highest recognition for performing artists, just before Obama leaves offices.
Sean Penn, Garth Brooks, Aretha Franklin, Kevin Spacey and Ringo Starr were some of the A-listers who serenaded and hailed the legacy of the award recipients during the star-studded performance hosted for the third consecutive year by late night talk show host Stephen Colbert.
Obama jokingly asked Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh, a notorious troublemaker, not to trash the White House because he is leaving soon and wants his “security deposit” back.
The Eagles were set to be honored last year but postponed due to the illness of founding member Glenn Frey, who died in January. He received his award posthumously.
Taylor, 68, performed “America the Beautiful” at Obama’s second inauguration in January 2013, while Staples, who like none other provided the music of the civil rights movement, sang at Kennedy’s inauguration.
Argerich, 75, is widely considered one of the world’s best, if reclusive, pianists.
“I was surprised. I didn’t think I was entitled,” Argerich said of learning she had won the award.
Academy Award nominee Don Cheadle hailed Pacino as being humble about his long and storied career that has seen him perform in some 100 films and plays, including The Godfather, Scarface, and Scent Of A Woman.