Kennedy Center Honors: Arroyo, Hancock, Joel, MacLaine and Santana

Singer and songwriter Billy Joel
Kevin Mazur
Singer and songwriter Billy Joel

Recipients of the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors—given to individuals for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts—were announced today: opera star Martina Arroyo; jazz pianist, keyboarder, bandleader and composer Herbie Hancock; pop and rock singer and songwriter Billy Joel; actress Shirley MacLaine and rock-and-roll icon Carlos Santana.

The list is notable and conspicuous for the inclusion of Santana and Arroyo, doubling the number of Hispanics in the lists of honorees in this the 36th year of the Kennedy Center honors. It’s significant because of a controversy which erupted in the wake of a contentious debate rising from protests by Hispanic advocacy groups that the honors lacked enough Latinos in its lists.

The controversy resulted in the Kennedy Center creating an artist review panel and inviting recommendations from the public. Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein said, “The Kennedy Center has sought to honor individuals whose accomplishments have affected the cultural life of the United States. This wider range of people involved in the process has resulted in the selections of five distinguished, accomplished and deserving honorees.”

Carlos Santana, a Mexican-American guitarist whom Rolling Stone including in the top tiers of guitarists, and his band Santana became almost instant icons when they performed at Woodstock in 1969, a performance that shot them to stardom as one of the most original forces in rock and roll music, infusing rock with African and Latin rhythms, sounds and instruments. Their version of “Black Magic Woman,” and “Evil Ways” where huge hits, and Santana and the sound enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in the 1990s.

Martina Arroyo was raised in Harlem and was not encouraged to set her sights on an opera career. She was raised by an African-American mother and a Puerto Rican father. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1958 and built a rangy opera and singing career with a superb soprano voice. She “has dazzled the world with her glorious soprano voice and continues to share her artistry with a new generation of opera singers,” the Kennedy Center noted.

Billy Joel became the nation’s piano man, a prolific creator of hits for over 40 years including “Uptown Girl,” “New York State of Mind,” “An Innocent Man,” “Just the Way Your Are” and “Movin’ Out,” which became the basis for a Twyla Tharp-conceived Broadway musical of the same name.

Shirley MacLaine is a Hollywood movie star icon with tremendous personal appeal—she had a gamine, pixie-like quality early on which worked well in romantic comedies and dramas both and after numerous nominations won an Oscar for “Terms of Endearment.” She is also the sister of previous Kennedy Center honoree Warren Beatty.

Herbie Hancock played with Miles Davis early in his career but also was a pioneer of funk, embracing rock-and-roll and soul sounds into jazz.

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Thu, 24 Apr 2014 02:13:09 -0400

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