The “Kennedy Center Honors,” consistently one of the most surprising, compelling and entertaining programs of the year, airs at 9 p.m., Dec. 26 on CBS. Caroline Kennedy returns as host for the 10th consecutive year.

The gala ceremony took place on Dec. 2, and as is the tradition, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are seated with the honorees in the Presidential Box of the Opera House at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, after hosting the traditional White House reception for the honorees.

Reportedly, the first lady was stunning in a spectacular Michael Kors creation.

Honorees at the 35th annual awards ceremony recognizing recipients for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures and television include Academy Award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman, Tony Award-winning ballerina Natalia Makarova, multiple Grammy Award-winning American blues guitarist and jazz singer Buddy Guy, Emmy Award-winning late night talk show host David Letterman and multiple Grammy-winning rock band Led Zeppelin.

Performers and presenters include Alec Baldwin, Jeff Beck, Jack Black, Jason Bonham, Tracy Chapman, Gary Clark, Jr., Alina Cojocaru, Billy Connolly, Angel Corella, Robert DeNiro, Tina Fey, Foo Fighters, Morgan Freeman, Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg, Beth Hart, Judith Jamison, Julie Kent, Kid Rock, Jimmy Kimmel, Lenny Kravitz, Laura Osnes, Veronika Part, Tiler Peck, Grace Ann Pierce, Bonnie Raitt, Ray Romano, Liev Schreiber, Jimmie Vaughn, Naomi Watts, Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson.

A short biographical film was featured during each honoree's tribute, and the legendary Judith Jamison, former Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and a 1999 Kennedy Center Honoree, paid tribute to Russian-born prima ballerina Natalia Makarova, who performed with Jamison in the American Ballet Theatre. "As a colleague and a great admirer, I'm so delighted that we honor her tonight," Jamison said.

Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman paid tribute to Buddy Guy, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, stating, "I first heard the blues sitting on my grandmother's porch in Mississippi - we called it "gut bucket music." You mastered the soul of that gut bucket music and used that as your starting point. You found a new music in it that no one had ever seen before. And without the Internet, without YouTube without even FM radio, you went viral. You went viral, Buddy Guy. You made a bridge from roots to rock and roll."

Tracy Chapman, who won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1988, performed "Hound Dog" in the tribute to Guy, and a definite highlight of the evening is the tribute to Led Zeppelin, which featured a rousing rendition of "Whole Lotta Love" by multiple Grammy Lenny Kravitz. The show ends with a high energy performance of Led Zeppelin's iconic "Stairway to Heaven," featuring Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson from the rock band Heart.

 

Contact Entertainment Reporter Kimberly C. Roberts at (215) 893-5753 or kroberts@phillytrib.com.

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