Kennedy Center: Cher, Glass, McEntire, Shorter

Wayne Shorter has a 2018 magnum opus, Emanon

Kennedy Center Honors 2018

“On December 2, 2018, the Kennedy Center held its 41st annual national celebration of the arts — The Kennedy Center Honors.” For the second year in a row, the guy in the White House won’t be there.

“The 2018 Honorees include singer and actress Cher, composer and pianist Philip Glass, Country music entertainer Reba McEntire, and jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter.”

I wrote at length about Cher on her 70th birthday a couple years ago. SINCE then, she continues to do concerts, received the Billboard Icon Award, co-starred in the romantic musical comedy film Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and put out a hit album of ABBA covers called Dancing Queen.

She’s now the subject of “The Cher Show, a jukebox musical based on Cher’s life and music, [which] officially premiered at the Oriental Theatre, Chicago, on June 28, 2018, and had its Broadway debut on December 3, 2018.”

Philip Glass (b. 1937) is a minimalist composer. Some soundtrack of his used to drive an old girlfriend of mine crazy when I played it. I have two of his CDs; one is The “Low” Symphony, based on the music of David Bowie.

The other is Songs from Liquid Days, “a collection of songs composed by… Glass with lyrics by Paul Simon, Suzanne Vega, David Byrne, and Laurie Anderson… The recording features performances by Bernard Fowler, the Kronos Quartet, Janice Pendarvis, Douglas Perry, The Roches, Linda Ronstadt…” Listen to Forgetting.

Reba McEntire (b. 1955) is one of the most successful country artists ever; if I have any of her songs, it’s on a random compilation. But she shows up in films, on TV and even on Broadway. She’s ubiquitous.

Wayne Shorter (b. 1933) is a major jazz saxophonist. He played with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis’ jazz quintet in the 1960s. I know him best from the jazz-fusion group Weather Report.

He has a 2018 magnum opus, Emanon. “Encompassing three discs of music (just over two hours) and an original sci-fi graphic novel, the project is a grand statement that seeks to blur distinctions between the premeditated idea and the spontaneous gesture, or between ‘classical’ and ‘jazz’ as they’re usually framed.”

“This year, the co-creators of Hamilton — writer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, and music director Alex Lacamoire — received a unique Kennedy Center Honors as trailblazing creators of a transformative work that defies category.”

Though I’ve not yet seen Hamilton, about first Treasury Secretary, I’m in that group that has heard so often that I know the songs as well as I’m familiar with On the Street Where You Live, even though I’ve never seen My Fair Lady.

The writers of JEOPARDY! use Hamilton references a lot, to mixed results: “This musical includes the song ‘The Room Where It Happens'” was a missed Daily Double. No one knew “In the entrance hall of Monticello Jefferson placed a bust of himself opposite one of this Cabinet secretary & rival.”

“The Honors Gala will be broadcast on the CBS Network for the 41st consecutive year as a two-hour primetime special on Wednesday, December 26 at 8 p.m. ET.” 2017 Honoree Gloria Estefan hosts.

Kennedy Center Honors: Lear, Estefan, Richie…

The Kennedy Center Honors, which took place on Sunday, December 3, will be aired on CBS-TV on Tuesday, December 26 from 9-11 p.m., EST.

Carmen de Lavallade
When the announcement of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors were first announced, I was afraid it might not take place at all. When Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter called [Norman] Lear a few months ago to tell him about his selection, “Lear said he’d be thrilled to have it (at last!)”

But the television pioneer “just couldn’t abide the idea of standing in the White House shaking Trump’s hand. Days after the Kennedy Center announced this year’s honorees, Lear told reporters that he would boycott parts of the event.”

As it turned out, on August 19, 2017, “the White House announced that the President of the United States and the First Lady will not participate in 2017 Kennedy Center Honors activities.” The KCH reps were “grateful for this gesture.”

Norman Lear is the honoree I’m most familiar with. He was the creator and producer of several successful and groundbreaking TV sitcoms in the 1970s including All in the Family, Maude, Good Times, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, all of which I watched for most or all of their runs. And, at 95 he’s STILL working, putting out a new version of One Day at a Time, this iteration with a Hispanic cast.

I did not recognize the name Carmen de Lavallade, but I am quite familiar with two of her cohorts. She “is a multifaceted dancer, choreographer, actor, and teacher… De Lavallade brought [the late] Alvin Ailey to the studio for his first ballet class, which began a long career of collaboration between the two dance world giants.” Her late husband Geoffrey Holder “would choreograph works for [her], including her signature solo Come Sunday.” Here’s a recent profile of her on CBS Sunday Morning.

Lionel Richie has been a massively successful singer-songwriter, first with the group The Commodores (Easy, Brick House, Three Times a Lady) then as a solo artist (Truly, All Night Long, Hello). His duet with Diana Ross, Endless Love, spent nine weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts in 1981. He wrote Lady for Kenny Rogers, which reached #1 in 1980, and co-wrote the benefit single We Are the World in 1985. Richie was a staple on MTV in its early days.

In 2018, my wife and I will be seeing the musical On Your Feet at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady about the lives of Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio. Their group, the Miami Sound Machine, was big in Latin America but took a bit longer to break into the US market. When the band recording more in English, they started charting with won radio DJs over, and had massive success with songs like Conga!, Anything for You, 1–2–3, and Bad Boy. Theirs is a story of Cuban immigrants who “brought a Latin-infused sound to the American mainstream.”

I was a little surprised to see LL Cool J on the list. It’s not that he hasn’t been enormously successful as a hip hop artist that has crossed over to the mainstream with songs like Around the Way Girl, Hey Lover, Doin It, Luv U Better and Control Myself. It’s that his name doesn’t usually pop up on the list of the best or most influential hip-hop artists. Still, he has segued that musical success into a thriving acting career. He currently appears on NCIS: Los Angeles, which I must admit I’ve never seen.

The Kennedy Center Honors, which took place on Sunday, December 3, will be aired on CBS-TV on Tuesday, December 26 from 9-11 p.m., EST.