Joni Mitchell, Bette Midler, and Lorne Michaels Among Newest Kennedy Center Honorees Berry Gordy and Justino Díaz will also receive Kennedy Awards Honors at a ceremony in December.
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Joni Mitchell, Bette Midler, and Lorne Michaels Among Newest Kennedy Center Honorees

Joni Mitchell, pictured here in 2015, is among this year's Kennedy Center Honorees. John Shearer/Invision/AP Photo hide caption

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John Shearer/Invision/AP Photo

It's only been two months since the last Kennedy Center Honors, but the institution has already announced its newest honorees. The recipients will include the folk singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell; stage and screen performer Bette Midler; Motown music pioneer Berry Gordy, opera singer Justino Díaz, and Lorne Michaels, the creator of Saturday Night Live.

The 2020 honors— delayed till June 2021 due to the pandemic— were a subdued affair. The ceremony was mostly home recorded tributes stitched together by producers. For this December's awards, the Kennedy Center says it hopes to bring back the full-capacity, in-person ceremony at the Opera House, packed with the usual coterie of artists, politicians, and other celebrities.

This year's cohort includes two female singer-songwriters, Mitchell and Midler, whose careers started to soar in the early 1970s. Mitchell, 77, helped shape an era of protest music with songs like "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Woodstock." Her widely acclaimed album Blue celebrated its 50th anniversary just this summer. Meanwhile, Midler's music (which debuted around the same time as Mitchell's) helped propel her into a career that included plenty of Broadway and film performances. Her starring performance as Dolly Levi in the Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly! earned her a Tony Award for best lead actress in a musical as recently as 2017.

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Gordy, 91, is the founder of the Motown Records label, and is credited with discovering artists including Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, and Marvin Gaye. And Díaz, 81, is a bass-baritone who has performed for opera companies across the globe including the Kennedy Center, and will return to the Opera House to see artists pay tribute to his career.

Michaels, 76, created the sketch comedy program Saturday Night Live in 1975 which will premiere its 47th season this fall.

"After the challenges and heartbreak of the last many months, and as we celebrate 50 years of the Kennedy Center, I dare add that we are prepared to throw 'the party to end all parties' in D.C. on December 5, feting these extraordinary people and welcoming audiences back to our campus," Kennedy Center president Deborah F. Rutter said in a statement. The performing arts center announced this spring that it will reopen all its stages for shows as part of its 50th anniversary celebration this year, in accordance with local health guidelines.

Kennedy Center honorees are chosen through an advisory committee process that included both Kennedy Center officials and past award recipients to ensure a broad range of artist talent. Recent recipients have included musicians Joan Baez, Earth, Wind, & Fire, and Cher; actors Dick Van Dyke and Sally Field; and major artistic achievements like Hamilton and Sesame Street.

The ceremony will take place Dec. 5. The show will air on CBS in December, but the exact date has not been set.

This story is from, the local news website of WAMU.

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