The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced July 21 the five honorees who will receive the 45th Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime artistic achievements: George Clooney, Amy Grant, Gladys Knight, Tania León, and Irish rock band U2, comprised of Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr.
The recipients are recognized for their contributions to American culture through the performing arts—whether in music, dance, theatre, opera, motion pictures, or television—and are confirmed by the Executive Committee of the Center’s Board of Trustees.
About the honor, Grammy-winning soul, gospel, R&B, and pop icon Knight—who performed in concert at Broadway's Gershwin Theatre in summer 1984 in Gladys Knight & the Pips & Kashif—said in a statement, "I’m humbled beyond words to be included amongst this prestigious group of individuals, both past and present. You could never have told me as a young girl starting my career that I would be honored on a stage such as this, with artists and humanitarians such as these—it just wouldn’t have seemed possible. It would have been the dream of all dreams. I have been blessed with so much in my life and this certainly stands with those achievements at the top of that list. To be honored as a Kennedy Center Honoree is among the highlights of my career. I stand here with my fans, my family, my friends, my team, and my faith in accepting such an amazing distinction. It is dedicated to all those who paved the path for me to be able to accomplish the wonderful blessings I’ve been able to receive. The Kennedy Center’s commitment to the arts is unparalleled and I am so very grateful for this moment.”
Bono and The Edge—who penned the score for Julie Taymor's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark—along with fellow U2 honorees Clayton and Mullen Jr. added, “In December 1980, we made our first trip across the Atlantic to America. Our first show was at The Ritz in New York City, the second, The Bayou in D.C. We had big dreams then, fueled in part by the commonly held belief at home that America smiles on Ireland. And it turned out to be true, yet again. But even in the wilder thoughts, we never imagined that 40 years on, we would be invited back to receive one of the nation’s greatest honours…It has been a four-decade love affair with the country and its people, its artists, and culture. We consider America to be a home away from home and we are very grateful to the Kennedy Center Honors for welcoming us into this great clan of extraordinary artists.”
“Growing up in a small town in Kentucky I could never have imagined that someday I’d be the one sitting in the balcony at the Kennedy Center Honors," stated actor and filmmaker Clooney. "To be mentioned in the same breath with the rest of these incredible artists is an honor. This is a genuinely exciting surprise for the whole Clooney family.”
“Little did I imagine when studying in La Habana that life was going to grace me with such a distinction!" shared Cuban-born American composer, conductor, and educator León. "My first thoughts went to my ancestors: they believed in my dreams, and what we lacked in material wealth, they made up for in spirit, encouragement, and support. My heartfelt thanks go to the many people who have blessed my path by helping my talent to blossom and by giving me the chance to be heard. I am incredibly humbled to join such a prestigious family of artists, and deeply grateful to the Kennedy Center for bestowing me with this incredible honor.”
And, contemporary Christian and pop singer-songwriter Grant said, "Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine ever receiving this prestigious Kennedy Center Honors. Through the years, I’ve watched so many of my heroes serenaded by colleagues and fellow artists, always moved by the ability of music and film to bring us together and to see the best in each other. I cannot wait to celebrate with my fellow honorees, friends, and family. Thank you for widening the circle to include all of us.”
The 45th class of Kennedy Center Honorees will be saluted on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage December 4 by leading performers from New York, Hollywood, and the arts capitals of the world. The Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on CBS on a date to be announced and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
Last year's honorees included stage and screen star Bette Midler, operatic bass-baritone Justino Díaz; Motown founder, songwriter, producer, and director Berry Gordy; Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels; and singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.