By Christie D’Zurilla
The Kennedy Center Honors, which once again were not attended by President Trump, included tributes Sunday night to the late former President George H.W. Bush, who died Friday at age 94.
“I think it’s appropriate to recognise the passing of a wonderful man who dedicated his life to service and who graciously attended this event many times during his administration, laughing, applauding, singing along and even shedding a tear from right up there in the presidential box,” host Gloria Estefan said to kick off the evening at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington.
She recalled being invited to the White House and how Bush “literally spent 45 minutes patiently talking to my 8-year-old son” about how government worked.
Estefan was recognised last year; this year, the lifetime artistic-achievement honours went to jazz great Wayne Shorter, pop diva Cher, country star Reba McEntire and composer Philip Glass, with a unique award of distinction going to the team behind Hamilton: Andrew Blankenbuehler, Thomas Kail, Alex Lacamoire and star Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Their names, like the other nominees’, were first announced this summer.
“In recognising Hamilton and its co-creators,” Kennedy Center President Deborah F Rutter said in a statement at the time, “the Kennedy Center is making an unprecedented statement about an unprecedented work — a work that transcends cultural boundaries and tells America’s story in a powerful and contemporary way.”
On Sunday, comic Whoopi Goldberg introduced Cher and friend Cyndi Lauper sang If I Could Turn Back Time. Kelly Clarkson paid tribute to McEntire with a version of Fancy, the Bobbie Gentry song McEntire turned into a hit in 1990.
Jason Moran, the Kennedy Center’s artistic director for jazz, said Shorter’s sound over a six-decade career “holds a special place in the galaxy,” adding that he could safely say that “somewhere in the galaxy right now, a band is playing one of his pieces.” And previous award winner Paul Simon did the honours for Glass, whom he praised for “never settling into one particular style, always developing and exploring.”
Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, who also missed last year’s event after several honourees threatened a boycott, returned in the wee hours Sunday from the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.
Though Bush attended most years and continued to do so after his presidency, he — like other heads of state, including Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — missed a year due to major events. Trump is the first president to decline an invitation twice.
You can watch the Kennedy Center Honors when they are broadcast on CBS on Dec. 26. The Associated Press contributed to this report. – Los Angeles Times/TNS
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