Neil Diamond, Meryl Streep

Jim Dyson/Getty Images; AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Meryl Streep has deserved practically every award she's ever been given, but this takes the cake.

The acting legend will join singer-songwriter Neil Diamond, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, crooner Barbara Cook and jazz great Sonny Rollins among the artists set to receive the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors, the nation's most prestigious award for the performing arts.

The five will be feted by President Obama and first lady  Michelle Obama at the 34th annual celebration on Dec. 4. Here's a quick look at this year's honorees:

Meryl Streep: Considered a modern-day Katherine Hepburn, the 62-year-old Hollywood icon has two Oscars out of a whopping 16 nominations(!) and a list of classic pictures to her name, including The Deer Hunter, Silkwood, Out of Africa and The Bridges of Madison County, not to mention such late career box-office hits as The Devil Wears Prada, Mama Mia! and It's Complicated. She's already garnering more critical acclaim portraying former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the upcoming film The Iron Lady.

Neil Diamond: The 70-year-old Brill Building veteran is as American as apple pie. After getting his start penning songs for the likes of Elvis Presley ("And the Grass Won't Pay No Mind") and The Monkees ("I'm a Believer"), Diamond went solo and never looked back, scoring such hits as "Sweet Caroline," "Cracklin' Rosie" and "America" among many others. In April, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and perhaps in a celebratory mood over his Kennedy Center prize, Neil took to Twitter today and announced that he and his girlfriend, Katie, have just gotten engaged.

Yo-Yo Ma: The 55-year-old virtuoso cellist has dazzled audiences and heads of state for five decades now, including playing for Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy when he was only 7 years old. When he's not touring the globe interpreting classic composers, he's performed pieces for such films as Seven Years in Tibet, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and recorded 75 albums, of which 15 have won Grammys.

Barbara Cook: The 83-year-old crooner and actress was a leading Broadway star in the 1950s, appearing in the original productions of Candide and The Music Man, the latter of which nabbed her a Tony. Noawadays the soprano is best known for interpreting the musical theater works of Stephen Sondheim as a leading cabaret and concert singer.

Sonny Rollins: The 81-year-old alto saxophonist is one of jazz music's premiere composers and improvisers. While recording with the likes of Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, Rollins-penned compositions like "Oleo" became jazz standards. He then went out and started his own bands, performing in Carnegie Hall, teaming with the likes of the Rolling Stones, and receiving the 2010 National Medal of Arts among other honors.

Past recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors include Steven Spielberg, Dolly Parton, Oprah Winfrey, Robert De Niro, Barbra Streisand, Bill Cosby and Mel Brooks, among others.

Per tradition, all five artists will attend a White House reception followed by a gala ceremony at the Kennedy Center, which will air on CBS Dec. 27.

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share