James Brown is on the D.C. scene. Like an award-winning machine.
The Godfather of Soul is one of five recipients of this year's Kennedy Center Honors, joining veteran funnylady Carol Burnett, country great Loretta Lynn, Graduate director Mike Nichols and violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman.
According to James A. Johnson, chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the quintet has been tapped "for the unique and extremely valuable contributions they have made to the cultural life of our nation."
Per tradition, the award recipients will join President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush for a White House reception, followed by a star-studded celebration at the Kennedy Center Opera House.
This year's gala, however, will break tradition. It will mark the first year that TV news vet Walter Cronkite will not be handling hosting duties. There was no immediate word on why Cronkite was bowing out, and a replacement for the longtime master of ceremonies has not yet been named.
This year will also mark the debut of a newly refurbished Opera House--the gala will be the location's debut event since the landmark venue closed for a facelift last fall.
A notable omission from this year's list is Paul McCartney. Last year, he turned down the tribute because he had to attend his niece's wedding, becoming the first Kennedy Center honoree in history to withdraw from the ceremony. He was replaced at the last minute by fellow '60s music icon Paul Simon.
In a statement released Tuesday, Johnson failed to mention the McCartney diss, but he did give props to all of the nominees.
He called Brown "one of the most influential musicians of the past 50 years" and dubbed Burnett "a nationally treasured icon of television comedy." Lynn was touted as "a singer whose name is synonymous with the heartbreak and joy of country music." Nichols was deemed "an extraordinary director equally brilliant in the theater and on film," and Perlman was called "a classical superstar of unsurpassed artistic achievement."
Here's a brief look at the winners of the 26th-annual Kennedy Center Honor:
The Grammy-winning Brown, aka Mr. Dynamite, aka the Godfather of Soul, aka the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, is a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer known for sweat-inducing concerts and pulse-pumping anthems like "Please, Please, Please," "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," "Sex Machine" and "I Got You (I Feel Good)." Much-Emmy'd Burnett was the beloved star of the long-running The Carol Burnett Show on CBS from 1967-78; she has also appeared in films and on Broadway (she also has a trophy on the mantel) and is a bestselling author. Lynn, Nashville's coal miner's daughter, is a Grammy-winning queen of country music thanks to such hits as "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)" and "Woman of the World." An Oscar-, Tony-, Grammy- and Emmy-winning director and performer Nichols has helmed classics on Broadway, such as Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple, and films like The Graduate, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Carnal Knowledge. World-renowned Israeli violinist Perlman has performed at nearly every major concert hall on the planet; his collection includes eight Grammys.
Founded in 1978, the Kennedy Center 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 major show-biz icons like Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart. Last year's class included Elizabeth Taylor, Chita Rivera, James Earl Jones and Simon.
This year's ceremony is set for December 7. CBS will present the show as a two-hour prime-time special later in December.