Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, opera singer Martina Arroyo and actress Shirley MacLaine are also the honorees at the event held at the John F. Kennedy Center.
Billy Joel is one of the artists who received the Kennedy Center Honor at a ceremony held at the John F. Kennedy Center on Sunday, December 8. The legendary singer, who's popular for his "Just the Way You Are", ''Uptown Girl" and "Allentown", was presented with the award for influencing American culture through the arts.
Joel said the honor stood apart from his six Grammy Awards. "This is different. It's our nation's capital," he told The Associated Press. "This is coming more from my country than just people who come to see me. It's a little overwhelming."
Born in Bronx, Joel grew up in Long Island with his mother who sang and his father who played piano. There was always music in the house, the 64-year-old musician said.
The legend was not the only honoree at the event. Guitarist Carlos Santana, jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, opera singer Martina Arroyo and actress Shirley MacLaine were also the recipients of the prestigious awards.
Santana, who's a Mexican immigrant, became one of very few Latinos who had received the honor so far. "We love the music you made, not because it's Latin, but frankly because it is so very American," said Secretary of State John Kerry, who attended the event.
That night, President Barack Obama saluted the honorees at the bash that will be broadcast on CBS on December 29.
"The diverse group of extraordinary individuals we honor today haven't just proven themselves to be the best of the best," Obama said. "Despite all their success, all their fame, they've remained true to themselves - and inspired the rest of us to do the same."