The Beatles star Paul McCartney and media mogul Oprah Winfrey have been announced as this year's recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, organizers revealed on Tuesday, September 7. Joining McCartney and Winfrey as the honorees are country music stalwart Merle Haggard, choreographer Bill T. Jones and veteran Broadway composer and lyricist Jerry Herman.
McCartney, Winfrey, Haggard, Jones and Herman will receive the honors, which are given for lifetime contributions to American culture, at the 33rd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at the opera house of the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington on December 5. Meanwhile, a two-hour special will be aired on CBS on December 28.
Following the announcement, McCartney wrote on his official site, "President Kennedy was such an icon for us in the sixties and his presidency was so inspiring for so many people that it is a great pleasure for this kid from Liverpool to receive this honor."
Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein added of McCartney's prestigious award, "Sir Paul McCartney is one of the most influential and successful songwriters and musicians of all time, whose work has continuously altered both the creation and perception of music all over the world."
Meanwhile, Winfrey has also shared her thought about the honor, telling Associated Press, "I love surprising people; I don't like being surprised. Releasing any kind of control over a show and allowing myself to sit there and be surprised is not going to be easy, but I'm willing to do that."
Haggard, who said that awarded with the honor was like getting a "nice kick in the stomach", revealed as quoted by Los Angeles Times, "Boy.... the TV mogul and the greatest writer in the world. I didn't know anybody cared. I'm what you'd call a middle-of-the-road conservative. I don't attach myself to either party. I stay neutral and try to write about it."
Choreographer Jones, in the meantime, shared, "The dance world I came out of - the postmodern world - for a long time was considered a very marginalized footnote to history. To be honored in this way is a validation for a whole strain of investigation that many people have dedicated their lives to. I'm just delighted."
Composer Herman, additionally, said from his Los Angeles home, "What's really exciting about it for me, it's the one award that comes from my country. I've gotten so many beautiful theatrical awards... but there is no other honor like the Kennedy Center honor. It's America. It's my land that I love, as Irving Berlin said."
Each year, Kennedy Center Honors are awarded to five special recipients for their lifetime contribution to American culture through the performing arts. Past recipients of the Kennedy kudos include Robert De Niro, Brian Wilson, Steven Spielberg, Bob Dylan, Bill Cosby, Dolly Parton, Elizabeth Taylor and Barbra Streisand.