Sesame Street, actress Sally Field, singer Linda Ronstadt, R&B band Earth, Wind & Fire and conductor and San Francisco Symphony co-founder Michael Tilson Thomas have been named the 2019 recipients of the 42nd annual Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime artistic achievements.
Sesame Street will be the first television program to ever receive the award. Co-founders Joan Ganz Cooney and Dr. Lloyd Morrisett will accept “on behalf of the show, 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.”
Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein praised this year’s honorees as “icons who, through their artistry, have left an indelible stamp on our collective cultural consciousness.”
Here are his descriptions of the five recipients:
- “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”;
- “Michael Tilson Thomas goes far beyond keeping score: he has shaped American music and musical institutions for the 21st century.”
The Kennedy Center Honors Gala is set for Sunday, Dec. 8 (the medallions are actually presented to the recipients the night before, with the honorees seated in the “Box Tier” of the Kennedy Center Opera House during the Gala).
The Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on CBS as a two-hour primetime special set for Sunday, Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. ET. The gala is produced by Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment.
“In this class of Honorees, we are witnessing a uniquely American story: one that is representative of so many cultural touchstones and musical moments that make our nation great,” said Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. “When I look at this distinctive group, I see the hopes, aspirations, and achievements not just of these artists, but of the many generations they have influenced and continue to influence. We’re not just looking back; these Honorees are urging us to look forward as well.”
Accepting for Earth, Wind & Fire, on behalf of the group, will be members Philip Bailey, Verdine White, and Ralph Johnson.
If Ronstadt attends, it will mark an increasingly rare appearance by the singer, who retired in 2011, later disclosing that she has Parkinson’s disease.
The singer is the subject of a new documentary, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, set for a September theatrical release by Greenwich Entertainment and 1091, with producer CNN Films acquiring TV rights for North America.
Also uncertain is whether President Donald Trump will attend, having skipped the last two galas after some recipients said they’d boycott if he showed.