What to Read Next

Billy Joel, Shirley MacLaine feted at Kennedy Center Honors

Jeff Mason
December 9, 2013
Santana and fellow 2013 Kennedy Center Honors recipient MacLaine react to remarks by U.S. President Obama during a reception at the White House in Washington
Carlos Santana (L) and fellow 2013 Kennedy Center Honors recipient Shirley MacLaine react to remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama (not pictured) during a reception at the White House in Washington December 8, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With notes of rock, jazz and opera, Washington feted piano man Billy Joel, actress Shirley MacLaine and guitarist Carlos Santana on Sunday at the Kennedy Center Honors, the capital's annual celebration of the arts.

Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and opera singer Martina Arroyo rounded out the list of honorees at the country's prestigious awards ceremony for stars of the stage, screen and concert hall.

"The diverse group of extraordinary individuals we honor today haven't just proven themselves to be the best of the best," President Barack Obama said at a White House ceremony before the show.

"Despite all their success, all their fame, they've remained true to themselves - and inspired the rest of us to do the same."

The evening started with a tribute to Santana, a 10-time Grammy winner originally from Mexico.

Singer Harry Belafonte, himself a Kennedy Center honoree, joked that he was a victim of the Latino musician's greatness, saying he thought Santana got his spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"We should've built a bigger fence," he deadpanned, referring to the debate in Washington about immigration reform and border security with Mexico.

"The Latino thing has arrived. It has become the new black. And now Carlos is a citizen of the world."

The theme continued when Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic member of the nation's highest court, introduced opera diva Arroyo. The daughter of a Puerto Rican father and an African-American mother, Arroyo grew up in an unlikely place for a future opera star: New York City's Harlem neighborhood.

"Martina faced an uphill battle," Sotomayor said. "She never gave up."

Musicians filled the Kennedy Center with opera and Santana's unique fusion sound in honor of the two performers.

Then, rapper Snoop Dogg electrified the stage with a rap tribute to Hancock, the keyboardist and band leader who hails from the Obamas' home state of Illinois.

"Hey, Herbie, you know we love you, baby," the rapper shouted. "Thank you for creating Hip Hop!"

THE ACTRESS AND THE PIANO MAN

MacLaine, who won an Oscar for her performance in the 1983 film "Terms of Endearment," was the sole actress highlighted during a night dominated by musicians.

"Ask me how my feet are, and ask me how my back is, and ask me where my martini is," she joked on Saturday at a State Department reception for the honorees.

MacLaine grew up in the Washington area and joins her brother, actor Warren Beatty, as a recipient of the award.

"It's more about my life and my past and my background and my home and my parents and dancing and work ethic," she told Reuters. "This is squaring the circle of living here."

MacLaine's other-worldly beliefs, described in her many books, also got some ribbing.

Perhaps the most emotional moment of the night came during the tribute to Joel, who's songs were described as a soundtrack for the lives of generations of Americans.

During a performance of Joel's song "Goodnight Saigon," a group of Vietnam veterans came on stage to sing along as Garth Brooks crooned the words "And we would all go down together."

The veterans saluted Joel at the end of the ballad. He saluted back.

"It's a little overwhelming," Joel told Reuters on Saturday night, referring to the award.

Asked to pick a favorite song or album, the composer - who has focused on his "first love" of writing instrumental music in recent years - demurred.

"I like 'em all. They're kinda like my kids. It's hard to pick a favorite," he said. "I like something about all of 'em. I remember the birth."

The final performance of the evening was Joel's famous hit "Piano Man," with the Kennedy Center audience singing along.

The show, which was recorded on Sunday, will be broadcast on CBS on December 29.

(Additional reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; editing by Jackie Frank)

Stomping Out Burglary, One Home at a Time

Tech experts like CNET call it “better, smarter home security.” Cops use it in stings to catch criminals. Meet SimpliSafe.

Banks Are Worried Homeowners Will Do This.

Homeowners are surprised and furious. If you owe less than $625,000 on your home, you better read this.

VA Mortgage Rates In 2016

VA Rates as Low as 2.75% (3.028% APR) 15 Year Fixed. Exclusive For Veteran & Military Takes 1 Min!

Bounce Back From The Holidays & Transfer A Balance

Holiday fun means holiday spending. Don't pay interest on your purchases for up to 15 months with the top ranked balance transfer credit cards.

Already Have Your Bachelor's Degree?

Learn more about earning your master's or doctoral degree from Walden University. Study online and further your career. Request free information!

Over 100 Million Items to Choose From at Sears

Save On Top Brands and Shop Everything From Appliances, Apparel, Lawn and Garden, Tools and more. 1 store Over 100 million items. It s all at Sears!

Heartburn Symptoms

Common Symptoms of Heartburn Include Burping and Bloating. Learn More About the Common and Uncommon Heartburn Symptoms You Might Be Experiencing.

Switch and save!

Switch to Progressive and you could save an average of $548.

Drivers With No Tickets In 3 Years Must Read This

If you drive less than 50 miles per day, there is a way to pay less for auto insurance that few people realize. Are you overpaying?

Drivers With No Tickets In 3 Years Must Read This

United States drivers are surprised that they never knew this. If you drive less than 50 mi/day, you better read this...

Delta Reserve Credit Card

Earn Up To 40,000 Medallion Qualification Miles. Apply Now!

Heartburn During Pregnancy

Dealing With Pregnancy is Hard Enough. Getting Heartburn While Pregnant is a Pain. Learn What Causes Heartburn During Pregnancy.

How Older Men Tighten Their Skin

Men, reduce the look of wrinkles, sagging skin and fine lines with this affordable and effective skin tightening treatment without leaving your home.

Are You Parenting a Teenager?

Raising teenagers can be challenging. If you need help understanding why your teens do the things they do, sign up for our free teen email series.