The stars came out in full force for this year's Kennedy Center Honors, which aired on Tuesday evening (Dec. 27). Filmed earlier this month, the likes of country titans such as Garth Brooks and Vince Gill, as well as artists ranging from Bonnie Raitt to Kings of Leon, performed either music tributes or gave heartfelt speeches. This year's honorees were James Taylor, Al Pacino, Mavis Staples, Martha Argerich and classic rock band The Eagles. Comedian and late-night show host Stephen Colbert acted as emcee for the evening.
Brooks, who cites Taylor as the reason he got into music, performed a smooth version of Taylor's "Shower the People." Meanwhile, Sheryl Crow delighted with a medley of "Fire & Rain" and "Your Smiling Face"; Darius Rucker performed "Sweet Baby James" and "Carolina on My Mind"; and the James Taylor Tribute Cast took on "How Sweet It Is." For Taylor's segment, former President Bill Clinton and Yo-Yo Ma gave spoken tributes.
“His influence in our lives goes way beyond his contributions to the American songbook. His songs and lyrics have become the seams in the fabric of our national life," said Clinton.
Staples' tribute featured Raitt's moving speech and a performance of "We Shall Not Be Moved" and "Freedom Highway," with R&B newcomer Andra Day, and rocker Elle King ripping into "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There." Actor Don Cheadle also gave a touching speech, saying, “The message of truth, in pitch-perfect harmony, demonstrates the power of art to inspire change. With the promise of the civil-rights movement never fully realized, Mavis Staples is still out there on the battlefield. She’s still fighting.”
The Eagles tribute segment likewise contained a bevy of pop, rock and country stars. Performers included Gill ("Peaceful Easy Feeling"), Bob Seger ("Heartache Tonight"), Kings of Leon ("Take It Easy"), Juanes ("Hotel California," with Steve Vai and Steuart Smith) and the Eagles Tribute Cast ("Life in the Fast Lane"). Ringo Star later took the stage for a spoken tribute.
Argerich was honored by Jeff Goldblum, Itzhak Perlman, Yefim Bronfman, Placido Domingo and Yuja Wang. “In this moment, you are at the pinnacle of your fullest natural flowering, and on the threshold of your best work and life,” Goldblum told the crowd. “You are right on schedule and we are in awe.”
The tribute lineup paying respects to Pacino included Chris O’Donnell (who gave a tango performance from “Scent of a Woman,” with Gabrielle Anwar), Bobby Cannavale, Lily Rabe, Laurence Fishburne, Kevin Spacey and Sean Penn.
President John F. Kennedy was honored by grandchildren Jack Schlossberg, Rose Schlossberg and Tatiana Schlossberg with a spoken tribute and a performance from Cynthia Erivo of “The Impossible Dream” from the Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha."
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Check out a slew of performances and speeches below: