Photo: Slowking4

Kennedy Center Honors U2, Gladys Knight, Amy Grant

During Sunday’s Kennedy Center Honors celebration (12.04,) a heartfelt Patti LaBelle praised her lifelong friend Gladys Knight, Sean Penn called U2 “four scrappy Dublin punks,” and Sheryl Crow delivered an emotional rendition of “Baby Baby” to Amy Grant.

An annual event that pays homage an elite group of talent for their artistic influences on American culture, Knight, Grant, and U2 were all celebrated at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in the presence of President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their respective spouses, as were members the President’s Cabinet and Congress.

Standing on stage in front of a huge sign reading “Gladys,” LaBelle called Knight her “everything,” stating that they’ve been friends for sixty years through the laughter and the tears. “We do everything together,” LaBelle said. “I am honored to honor you tonight.”

Hip-hop superstar LL Cool J said that whenever Knight sings she connects with people: “I once heard Gladys sing the ABCs and I thought I was in church.”

Knight has recorded dozens of LPs and such classic hits as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia,” and fellow Kennedy Center-honoree Garth Brooks performed her song after he cited Knight’s “roots in country music.”

Each musician artist was introduced via video compilation including snippets of their lives. In Grant’s piece, her children talked about their mother’s influence on them and Sheryl Crow Crow talked about Amy’s influence on her when she was a young college student: “Amy also taught me that it was possible to be funny, irreverent and Christian all at the same.”

In a video taped on Saturday (12.03,) U2 guitarist The Edge (born David Howell Evans) mentioned that a group of four “Irish lads” were being honored for contributions to American culture and stated there’s a bond between the group and America that can’t really be explained.

Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder sang U2′s “Elevation” and “One,” and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen brought his alter ego Borat to the stage as part of the U2 tribute, pretending to mistake Biden for former President Donald Trump. Singers Brandi Carlile, Hozier and Jamala – from the U.S., Ireland and Ukraine, respectively – closed the show with an emotional version of “Walk On.”

U2 frontman, Bono is known as much for his music as for his philanthropic work to eradicate poverty and to raise awareness about AIDS. Jamala of the Ukraine has been embroiled in an almost year-long bloody war after the Russian invasion, and she touched on that history of social activism as she introduced the night’s final song:

“It’s fitting that on the night meant to honor them they have once again used their platform to spread a message of peace. Honestly to be here in this bright warm hall this evening is really something extraordinary for me, when there is so much darkness in my home country Ukraine.”

Each of this year’s honorees arrived at the the theater following a White House reception where Biden praised them before a star-studded East Room crowd as an “exceptional group of artists.” “Thank you for showing us the power of the arts and ‘We the People,’” said the President.

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Author: Saul Goode

Photo: Slowking4