U2, George Clooney, Amy Grant among Kennedy Center honorees

·3 min read

IT’S going to be a “Beautiful Day” for the band U2 and four other artists when they receive this year’s Kennedy Center Honors in December.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced on July 22 (PH time) that the Irish rock band along with actor George Clooney, singers Gladys Knight and Amy Grant and composer Tania León are being honored this year.

The center generally honors five people annually for influencing American culture through the arts. But bands and other groups sometimes get honors, too. Disco-funk band Earth, Wind & Fire was the most recent, in 2019, the year the long-running children’s TV show “Sesame Street” was honored. The Eagles were honored in 2016 and Led Zeppelin in 2012.

Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said in an interview that her group has “worked really hard to think about ‘Are we including all of the performing arts?’” as it hands out its awards. She singled out Grant’s music in particular as a different genre being represented in the honors this year.

“We’ve had gospel before. We’ve had plenty of R&B and soul. ... We’ve had country music, but we haven’t necessarily had Amy Grant and Christian pop in the same way,” she said, comparing Grant’s inclusion to the center’s honoring of LL Cool J in 2017, the first time the honorees included a hip-hop artist.

This is the 45th year of the honors, which will include a gala performance Dec. 4 in Washington featuring top entertainers. The show will be broadcast on CBS at a later date.

Rutter said the honor is “not about one work that happens to be popular this year. Or one movie. Or one piece of choreography.” It’s “about lifetime achievement.”

A look at this year’s honorees:

U2

Rutter said she was told U2 frontman Bono was eating and dropped his fork when he was told the band had been selected for the honor. But it took a while for the band to accept because Bono had to get his fellow band members—The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.—to buy in and they weren’t all in the same place, Rutter said.

U2 has sold 170 million albums and been honored with 22 Grammys. The band’s epic singles include “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”

In a statement thanking the Kennedy Center, the band noted it played its first show in America in New York in 1980. Its second show was in Washington.

“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,” the band said in a statement, calling the United States “a home away from home.”

George Clooney

Clooney, who played wily thief Danny Ocean in “Ocean’s Eleven” and its sequels, won’t need to mastermind any sort of scheme to take home the Kennedy Center award.

The 61-year-old actor-director has won two Academy Awards—for best supporting actor in “Syriana” and as a producer of best picture winner “Argo”—and starred in such films as “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” “Up In the Air,” “Michael Collins” and “The Descendants.”

“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,” Clooney said in a statement, adding that the honor was a “genuinely exciting surprise” for his whole family.

Clooney and his wife, British human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, have 5-year-old twins. Clooney first became well known to audiences on the television series “ER,” on which he played Dr. Doug Ross. His directing credits include “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” and “The Tender Bar.”

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