With Paul McCartney announcing last week that he would miss this year's presentation of the prestigious awards reportedly to attend his niece's nuptials, the Washington, D.C., based center on Monday tapped fellow '60s songster Paul Simon as a late sub.
While he might not be a Beatle, the shorter half of Simon and Garfunkel is no slouch when it comes to musical cred. His compositions make up a jukebox worth of classic rock: "The Sounds of Silence," "Bridge over Troubled Water," "Mrs. Robinson," "The Boxer," "Kodachrome," "Still Crazy After All These Years," "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" and "Graceland." Simon's most recent album was 2000's You're the One.
He has won a dozen Grammys and, like McCartney, is a two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, going in with Art Garfunkel in 1990 and then elected as a solo artist last year.
In a statement Monday, Kennedy Center chairman James A. Johnson hailed the 59-year-old Simon as a pioneering songwriter and inspiration to generations of Americans. "His work has encompassed an awareness of and concern for international art and artists," Johnson says of Simon.
With Simon on board as the fifth 2002 honoree, the full slate of 25th anniversary recipients is set. He joins actresses Elizabeth Taylor and Chita Rivera, actor James Earl Jones and James Levine, the artistic director of New York's Metropolitan Opera House.
Founded in 1978, the honors pay tribute to those who have made "a lifetime contribution to American culture through the performing arts" and are chosen by a committee of fellow artists. Previous recipients include Bob Dylan, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.
This year's Kennedy Center Honors will be bestowed December 7 at a dinner bash hosted by Secretary of State Colin Powell. Per tradition, President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush will do a White House meet-and-greet on December 8, followed by a gala performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. (CBS will tape the performance and broadcast it later in the month.)
Last week, McCartney, 60, became the first Kennedy Center honoree to withdraw from the festivities. According to published reports, he pulled out after learning his niece would be getting married the same weekend as the awards. McCartney expressed his "deepest regret and profound apologies" to organizers--who scrambled to come up with a worthy replacement.
The nominating committee quickly picked Simon--reasoning that he would have been honored in the future. McCartney, meanwhile, has already been confirmed for next year's lineup.