Two-time Grammy winner and 2017 Kennedy Center Honors recipient LL Cool J hosts the 42nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors broadcast, filmed live December 8 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. The annual TV special is broadcast on CBS December 15 at 8 PM ET.
Actor Sally Field, singer Linda Ronstadt, R&B collective Earth, Wind & Fire, children’s series Sesame Street, and conductor and musical visionary Michael Tilson Thomas are the 2019 honorees. These artists were saluted by performers from New York, Hollywood, and the arts capitals of the world.
Among the performers and presenters who took part in the evening were Tony winner Audra McDonald, Tony winner Cynthia Erivo, Tony winner Kevin Kline, Oscar winner Tom Hanks, Carrie Underwood, Aaron Neville, Lucy Liu, Debra Winger, David Foster, John Legend, Oscar winner Steven Spielberg, David Copperfield, Ne-Yo, the Jonas Brothers, and more.
“The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates icons who, through their artistry, have left an indelible stamp on our collective cultural consciousness,” said Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein in an earlier statement. “Earth, Wind & Fire’s hooks and grooves are the foundation of a seminal style that continues to shape our musical landscape; Sally Field has brought us unforgettable characters, both joyous and poignant, for more than five decades; Linda Ronstadt is the defining voice of a generation, spanning genres, languages and continents; Sesame Street continues to revolutionize how children and adults learn about our world; and Michael Tilson Thomas goes far beyond keeping score – he has shaped American music and musical institutions for the 21st century.”
The celebration marks the first time a television program is recognized. The co-founders of Sesame Street, Joan Ganz Cooney and Dr. Lloyd Morrisett, accepted the Kennedy Center Honors on behalf of themselves, Muppets creator Jim Henson, Muppets artists Caroll Spinney and Frank Oz, and the thousands of creatives who have built the program’s 50-year legacy.
Earth, Wind & Fire members Philip Bailey, Verdine White, and Ralph Johnson were present to accept the Kennedy Center Honors on the band’s behalf.
Oscar winner Field made her Broadway debut in 2002 in Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? and also starred in the 2017 revival of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, earning a Tony nomination for her work in the latter. Grammy winner Ronstadt made her Broadway debut in 1981 in The Pirates of Penzance; she was also seen in Canciones de mi Padre in 1988.
The Honors recipients are recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts and are confirmed by the executive committee of the Center’s board of trustees. Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment executive produce the special for the fifth consecutive year. Weiss returns as director.