Washington celebrated singer Dionne Warwick, comedian Billy Crystal, Bee Gees member Barry Gibb, rapper and actress Queen Latifah, and opera star Renée Fleming on Sunday at the Kennedy Center Honors, the top U.S. honor for achievements in the arts.
President Joe Biden lauded the work of the five performers during a reception at the White House before the show.
“The performing arts are more than just sound and scene. They reflect who we are as Americans and as human beings,” he said.
The show kicked off with a tribute to Warwick, 82, a pop music star since the 1960s who has sold more than 100 million records and is known for hits such as “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” and “That’s What Friends Are For,” a 1985 song she recorded with Gladys Knight, Elton John and Stevie Wonder to raise awareness about AIDS.
“There simply is no song that Dionne Warwick cannot sing,” said record producer Clive Davis, adding that she had “inspired musicians all over the world.” Singer Cynthia Erivo performed a stirring version of Warwick’s song “Alfie.”
Crystal, 75, known for roles in films such as “When Harry Met Sally,” “City Slickers,” and “Analyze This,” was next up. Actors Meg Ryan and Robert De Niro appeared onstage to pay tribute to their friend.
“You’re only 75. That means you’re just about six years away from being the perfect age to be elected president,” De Niro quipped. Biden, 81, is running for re-election. The crowd roared.
Crystal is a Tony- and Emmy-winning actor and writer who hosted the Academy Awards nine times. Whoopi Goldberg, who also paid tribute to Crystal, said he should win an honorary Oscar for his service as the longtime host of the show.
Next up was Queen Latifah, 53, a musician and actress known for films including “Chicago” and “Bringing Down the House,” who won a Grammy Award for Best Solo Rap Performance in 1994.