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    Elton, Warren Top Kennedy Honors

    The Rocket Man's probably in orbit about now.

    Already granted the title of knighthood by Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Sir Elton John can add America's highest award to his ever-growing list of achievements--he's been selected to receive the Kennedy Center Honors.

    Joining the flamboyant music man on the 2004 honor roll are Hollywood star Warren Beatty, composer John Williams, acting legends Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, and soprano great Joan Sutherland.

    In a break from tradition, Kennedy Center chairman Stephen A. Schwarzman noted that this year's class "honors not the usual five but six extraordinary individuals whose unique and abundant artistry has contributed significantly to the cultural life of our nation and the world."

    The honors will be doled out at a State Department dinner December 4 to be followed the next day by a reception with President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush at the White House and a star-studded celebration at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

    Founded in 1978, the Kennedy Center honors pay tribute to lifetime achievement in the arts and has celebrated the careers of such living legends as Clint Eastwood, Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Bill Cosby, Johnny Carson, and James Brown.

    Here's a brief look at the winners of the 27th annual Kennedy Center Honors:

    Elton John: The singer, known for such classics as "Your Song," "Benny and the Jets" and "Saturday Night's All Right's For Fighting," has sold more than 60 million albums and won numerous Grammys. Aside from his penchant for outrageous sequined costumes and feather boas, the 57-year-old John has also made a name for himself as a composer for successful feature films like Disney's The Lion King and Broadway productions like Aida. His reworked version of his hit, "Candle in the Wind," in tribute to Princess Diana became the second biggest-selling single of all time.

    Warren Beatty: The 67-year-old actor-producer got his start on television's The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis before hitting it big producing and starring in 1967's Bonnie and Clyde, for which he scored a Best Actor Oscar nomination. He subsequently won--for Best Director--for 1982's Reds. In 2000, he was given one of Tinseltown's highest honors, the Irving G. Thalberg Award.

    John Williams: The 72-year-old composer made an indelible mark on the public imagination with his suspenseful theme for Steven Spielberg's Jaws in 1973. He's since provided soaring orchestral scores for George Lucas' Star Wars films, the Indiana Jones trilogy and the Harry Potter series, not to mention penning memorable themes for NBC Nightly News and the Olympics.

    Ossie Davis: The 86-year-old thespian, a leading African-American playwright, actor, director and Civil Rights activist, launched his career in theater with 1946's Jeb. After marrying Ruby Dee two years later, he followed up with a starring role in Broadway's A Raisin in the Sun and appearances in more than 80 films, including 1963's Gone are the Days, 1976's Countdown at Kusini, which he also helmed, and Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing.

    Ruby Dee: The Emmy-winning actress, 80, has racked up more than five decades worth of roles in theater, TV and film. She made her Broadway debut opposite hubby Ossie Davis in Jeb and went on to appear with him and Sydney Poitier in the 1950 feature No Way Out. She also starred in Davis' 1966 acclaimed play, Purlie Victorious, as well as A Raisin in the Sun.

    Joan Sutherland: The 77-year-old Australian soprano, considered the Great Dame of opera, made her concert debut in 1947 and has sung every major soprano role in many of the world's most esteemed opera houses until her official retirement in 1990.

    This year's Kennedy Center recipients were chosen by a 103-person committee of fellow artists, including musicians Yo-Yo Ma and Dave Brubeck, as well as actors Nathan Lane, Adrien Brody, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Meryl Streep.

    CBS will tape this year's ceremony as a prime-time special for broadcast at a later date.

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