Paul McCartney is scheduled to be saluted at the Kennedy Center Honors in December. This marks the second time that the ex-Beatle has been announced as Kennedy Center Honors recipient. He was initially set to receive the award eight years ago, but backed out due to a family commitment. The event organizers instead honored Paul Simon that year. McCartney's long wait to be asked again was seen as a sign that the organizers were miffed at his earlier pull-out.
This year's other recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors are country titan Merle Haggard, Broadway composer and lyricist Jerry Herman, TV legend Oprah Winfrey and dancer, choreographer and director Bill T. Jones.
The Kennedy Center Honors, which began in 1978, are held in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Though most likely no one will mention it, there is a Kennedy/McCartney link. The Beatles rose to fame in the U.S. in February 1964, less than three months after President Kennedy's assassination in Dallas. The group's ascension helped lifted America's (and the world's) spirits in the aftermath of that tragedy.
In a post on his website, McCartney noted, "President Kennedy was such an icon for us in the '60s and his presidency was so inspiring for so many people that it is a great pleasure for this kid from Liverpool to recieve this honor."
All of these honorees have received countless other honors. McCartney, 68, was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice--with the Beatles in 1988 and on his own in 1999. He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990. He has won 13 Grammys--seven with the Beatles and six on his own or with Wings.
Haggard, 73, was voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994. He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. Hag has won six awards from the Country Music Assn., including four in 1970 alone: Entertainer of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year for Okie From Muskogee and Single of the Year for the title track. He has won two Grammys.
Herman, 79, received a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater in 2009. He has won three Tonys, two for Hello, Dolly! in 1964 and one for La Cage Aux Folles in 1984. "Hello, Dolly!" brought Herman a Grammy for Song of the Year for 1964. Two years later, Herman won a second Grammy for Best Score from an Original Cast Show Album for Mame.
Winfrey, 56, was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1993. The talk show that made her one of the most powerful media figures in history went into syndication in 1986. Winfrey has won many daytime Emmys and one for primetime, as executive producer of the 2000 TV movie Tuesdays With Morrie. She also received an Oscar nomination for her supporting performance in 1985's Color Me Purple.
Jones, 58, has been at the forefront of the "postmodern" dance world for decades. His productions have addressed such topics as AIDS and gay rights. Jones is a two-time Tony winner for his choreography of 2007's Spring Awakening and this year's Fela!, which was based on the life of Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti. He was also nominated for two other Tonys (Director and and Book of a Musical) for Fela!
Herman and McCartney have met before, at least on the charts. In May 1964, Louis Armstrong's version of Herman's "Hello, Dolly!" knocked the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love" out of the #1 spot on the Hot 100, ending the Fab Four's 14-week run in the top spot.
Four of the five honorees have appeared on the cover of TIME. Haggard made the cover in May 1974 as part of a story on country music. McCartney appeared in May 1976 when Wings launched its American tour. Jones made the cover in October 1994 as part of a "Black Renaissance." Winfrey scored in October 1998 when she launched the movie Beloved.
The recipients will be saluted on Dec. 5 in a ceremony that will be taped for a PBS TV special slated to air on Dec. 28.