In an historic acknowledgement of the depth and breadth of British rock influence in the fabric of American culture, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has selected founding members of legendary British rock band The Who, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, to be among the distinguished honorees who will receive the Kennedy Center Honors of 2008.
On Sunday, December 7th, in a star-studded celebration on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage, the remaining two members of one of rock’s most vital and influential musical forces will be joined by four other recipients to be honored at the 31st annual national celebration of the arts: actor Morgan Freeman, singer George Jones, director, actress, singer, writer, composer and producer Barbra Streisand, and choreographer Twyla Tharp.
The recognition of The Who will mark the first time a rock band has ever received the coveted Kennedy Center Honor. Previous British honorees include, Elton John, Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, among others. The 2008 honorees will be seated with the President of the United States and Mrs. Bush, accepting the thanks of their peers and fans through performances and heartfelt tributes.
As the heart and soul of the seminal band The Who, songwriters and singers Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey transformed the sights and sounds of rock and roll,” stated Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen A. Schwarzman.
“This is a great thrill,” stated Mr. Townshend. “Since the Who began in the early ’60s we have loved American music and audiences and have made deep and lasting friendships with everyone involved in the industry there. Roger and I both feel our work in the United States has been as important as our work at home. Because our medium rock music is quintessentially American music with broad and deep international and multicultural roots, this honour is especially meaningful to us Brits.”
Mr. Daltrey also commented: “As a teenager growing up in the austerity of post-war England, it was the music I heard emanating from America that gave me a dream to hang my life on. To make music and make it there. I am deeply touched at receiving this honour, the warmth and affection I feel from our US audience is humbling indeed. To be added to the list of past recipients of this award makes that dream come true.”
The annual Honors Gala has become the highlight of the Washington cultural year, and its broadcast on CBS is a high point of the holiday television season. The Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on the CBS Network for the 31st consecutive year as a two-hour prime time special on Tuesday, December 30 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT).
Produced by George Stevens Jr., the 2008 Honorees will be saluted by great performers from New York, Hollywood, Nashville, and the arts capitals of the world. The President and Mrs. Bush will receive the Honorees and members of the Artists Committee, who nominate them, along with the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees at the White House prior to the gala performance. The 2008 Kennedy Center Honors Gala concludes with a supper dance in the Grand Foyer.
About The Who
Few bands have had a more lasting impact on the rock era than The Who. Inducted into the Rock n roll Hall of Fame in 1990, their incendiary style and poignant storytelling garnered them one of rocks most loyal followings, with the brash foursome bursting onto the scene in the mid-1960s armed with a searing new template for rock, punk and everything after. The Who have sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, including ferocious and diverse classics such as the 1969 groundbreaking rock opera Tommy (which won 5 Tony awards for its Broadway adaptation in 1993), 1971s pummeling Live At Leeds, 1973s Quadrophenia, 1978s Who Are You, and their final studio album 1982s Its Hard, their last full length CD of original material before their recently acclaimed Endless Wire, their first album in more than two decades.
Unprecedented demand for The Whos recent sold-out trek across the globe reaffirmed their reputation as one of rock’s most cathartic and robust live bands. Cited by numerous critics for delivering the touchstone performance at the 9/11 Benefit Concert at Madison Square Garden, the group continues to enrich both its musical legacy and its riveting stage presence, and will be heading out to tours in Australia and New Zealand in March of 2009. Nominated this week for yet another Grammy for Best Long Form Video for the critically acclaimed documentary, Amazing Journey: The Story Of The Who, the comprehensive anthology spans their amazing four-decade career, which has also seen them become part of the Grammy lexicon over the years. The band won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammy Foundation in 2001, with three seminal albums being inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame: Tommy (inducted in 1998), My Generation (inducted in 1999), and Whos Next (inducted in 2007.)
The Who were awarded the inaugural Freddie Mercury Achievement In Live Music Award at the 2006 Vodaphone Live Music Awards, held at the legendary Roundhouse In Camden, in London England, as well as being honored at the VH1 Rock Honors this past July at UCLA’s Pauley Pavillion. The lively show featured historic ‘homage’ sets by contemporary giants such as Pearl Jam and The Foo Fighters, among others, paying tribute to a band that has commanded one of the most expansive audiences in the history of popular culture.
About The Kennedy Center Honors
The Annual Kennedy Center Honors Telecast has also developed a loyal television following, and has been honored with five Emmys for Outstanding Program and is nominated again this year. It has also been recognized with the Peabody Award for Outstanding Contribution to Television and seven awards from the Writers Guild of America. The Honors recipients recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts whether in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures or televisionare selected by the Centers Board of Trustees. The primary criterion in the selection process is excellence. The Honors are not designated by art form or category of artistic achievement; the selection process, over the years, has produced balance among the various arts and artistic disciplines.
Past Honors recipients, as well as Members of the Kennedy Centers national artists committee, made recommendations of possible 2008 Honorees. Artists making recommendations included: Alan Alda, Dan Aykroyd, Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Glenn Close, Joel Coen, Christine Ebersole, Renée Fleming, Savion Glover, Thomas Hampson, Herbie Hancock, Paloma Herrera, Hugh Jackman, Billy Joel, Evgeny Kissin, Patti LuPone, Rob Marshall, Reba McEntire, Terrence McNally, Mark Morris, Mark OConnor, Bernadette Peters, Frederica von Stade, Forest Whitaker, Damian Woetzel, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Previous Kennedy Center Honorees, including Carol Burnett, Clint Eastwood, James Levine, and Sidney Poitier, also made nominations.