The Kennedy Center Honors

“I’m a sucker for the Kennedy Center Honors. As I get older, I notice the honorees are, more often than not, quite familiar to me.” I wrote that a couple years ago< , and it's no less true today. The awards were given out on Sunday, December 7, 2008. The event will be broadcast on CBS Tuesday, December 30 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT). I'll be watching, as usual; well, OK, recording to watch at a future date.

Morgan Freeman: Since I first saw him as Easy Reader on the Electric Company, a gig that literally drove him to drink, I’ve seen him in a number of performances, including God in Bruce Almighty (2003) God and the President in Deep Impact (1998), plus Amistad (1997); The Shawshank Redemption (1994), one of my favorite movies; Unforgiven (1992), one of my favorite Westerns; Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991); Glory (1989); Driving Miss Daisy (1989); Lean on Me (1989); Clean and Sober (1988); Street Smart (1987); probably TV performances before I knew he was MORGAN FREEMAN, such as Resting Place (1986); The Atlanta Child Murders (1985); and The Marva Collins Story (1981). Plus his distinctive voice has been used to narrate March of the Penguins, the TV adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun, and that American Masters segment featuring previous Kennedy Center inductee Clint Eastwood.

George Jones: I’ll admit I own no GJ save for a cut on the album “50 Stars, 50 Hits” “on two great country albums” that my grandfather brought me as a kid. But I was certainly aware of George from my period listening to WWVA in Wheeling, WV, a clear channel radio station I used to listen to at night in the 1960s. A Girl I Used to Know, Ain’t it Funny What Love Will Do, Your Heart Turned Left (And I Was on the Right), and especially She Thinks I Still Care. Of course, he was also noted for his marriage and d-i-v-o-r-c-e from Tammy Wynette.


Barbra Streisand: who is this person with the big nose and the bigger voice, I wondered when I saw this singer on any number of shows in the 1960s hosted by Dinah Shore or Mike Douglas or Ed Sullivan. Then she got a couple specials in her own name. She continues to show up on things like a Tony Bennett special I saw a couple years back. Barbra the singer I’ve been aware of for a long time, though in fact I own only one double-disc CD of her music. On film, I’ve also managed to see her a fair amount: The Prince of Tides (1991); Yentl (1983); Funny Lady (1975); The Way We Were (1973) – filmed partly in Schenectady, NY – I’m just saying; Up the Sandbox (1972); Hello, Dolly! (1969) and of course, her breakout role in Funny Girl (1968).


I came to Twyla Tharp via the Talking Heads’ David Byrne, when they collaborated on The Catherine Wheel. I’ve managed to see that piece and some of her other works including her legendary Sue’s Leg either on TV or when I was dragged up to the Saratoga Performing arts Center. I’ve also seen her work in films such as Hair (1978), Amadeus (1984), and White Nights (1985). This year, I saw at Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady Tharp’s take on the songs of Billy Joel in Movin’ Out, which I wrote about here.

One of my real musical regrets is that, maybe a dozen years ago, I did not go see The Who at the Knickerbocker/Pepsi/Times Union Arena in Albany, three blocks from where I was working at the time. I’m sure it was a matter of money, but still. The surviving members of the group are being honored. Roger Daltrey is a March Piscean named Roger; what’s not to like? My collection of Who albums is very long, from The Who Sell Out (1967) to Endless Wire (2006), of course including Tommy and Who’s Next. But I always had a particular affection for an early Who compilation, Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy when Daltrey’s vocals were particularly fresh.

In addition to his work with the Who, I own a number of solo Pete Townsend albums. Among them: the pivotal Empty Glass (1980), All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (1982), Scoop (1983), White City (1985), Deep End Live! (1986), Another Scoop (1987), The Iron Man (1989), and the 1996 compilation COOLWALKINGSMOOTHTALKINGSTRAIGHTSMOKINGFIRESTOKING.

Pic of Pete &Roger from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pete_Townshend_%26_Roger_Daltrey_1.JPG; Twyla’s pic from her website; other pics from govt sites.

ROG