They're only the fourth music group overall to be honored. The award generally goes to individuals.
Earth, Wind & Fire made a little history Thursday (July 18), becoming the first R&B group to receive the Kennedy Center Honors. They'll be just the fourth music group overall to receive this acknowledgement, following three rock groups: The Who (2008), Led Zeppelin (2012) and Eagles (2016).
The Kennedy Center Honors tend to go to individuals. As a result, they have generally chosen to honor lead singers and/or principal songwriters from groups, rather than the groups themselves.
Among the many alumni of famous R&B (or pop/R&B crossover) groups or duos who have been honored individually with Kennedy Center Honors are Smokey Robinson, lead singer and songwriter for The Miracles; Diana Ross, lead singer of The Supremes; Lionel Richie, who fronted Commodores; Mavis Staples of The Staple Singers; and Tina Turner of Ike & Tina Turner.