Tina Turner and Tony Bennett, two legends of American music, earned accolades from a broad array of pop and jazz stars Sunday during the Kennedy Center Honors. Highlights of the ceremony, which also honored actors Robert Redford and Julie Harris and dancer Suzanne Farrell, will be broadcast Dec. 27 on CBS.
In honor of Turner, Queen Latifah sang “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” Melissa Etheridge sang “River Deep, Mountain High” and Beyonce Knowles performed “Proud Mary.” Oprah Winfrey called herself “Tina’s biggest known groupie” and spoke of seeing Turner perform live, advising the star-studded audience at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, “Add that to the list of things you do before you die.”
Bennett was saluted with performances of standards like “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, “For Once in My Life,” by R&B star John Legend, and “Fly Me to the Moon,” by chanteuse Diana Krall. Record producer Quincy Jones described Bennett as “a soulful messenger of American songs” and said, “Tony is the one who knows how to fly us to the moon and get us back.”
Redford —- actor, director and creator of the Sundance independent film festival —- took some potshots from Paul Newman, his co-star in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting.” Referring to Redford’s reputation for lateness, Newman said, “Backstage they think the only reason he’s even in the vicinity was because they told him this whole thing was yesterday.”
Glenn Close called Redford “a visionary activist with the heart and soul of an artist,” while Tom Brokaw dubbed him “captain of America’s golden boys.”
Harris, a longtime veteran of stage and screen and winner of a record six Tony awards, won kudos from Kevin Spacey, who called her performances “not tricks, but transformations.”
“Acting isn’t what she does, it’s who she is,” Spacey said. Harris’ films include “The Member of the Wedding,” “East of Eden” and “Reflections in a Golden Eye.”
Farrell was feted by her former colleague at the New York City Ballet, Jacques d’Amboise. The company, led by George Balanchine, “was the center of American ballet and she was the diamond in its crown,” d’Amboise said. Farrell was the lead dancer in Balanchine-choreographed ballets such as “Meditation” and “The Nutcracker.” She is now an instructor.
Earlier Sunday, the members of the 28th annual class of honorees were welcomed by President Bush and first lady Laura Bush at a White House reception. “Each of these honorees, in a lifetime of achievement, has set a standard of excellence that is admired throughout the world,” the president said.
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