This article on the 2009 Kennedy Center honorees incorrectly said that opera singer Grace Bumbry has lived in Salzburg, Austria, since the late 1980s. In addition to Salzburg, she has lived in Lugano, Switzerland; New York City; St. Louis; and the District.
Kennedy Center Honorees for 2009 Are: Mel Brooks, Robert De Niro, Grace Bumbry, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Brubeck
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Start spinning "Born in the U.S.A." The Kennedy Center unfolded its 2009 roster of five Kennedy Center honorees Wednesday, led by two quintessential leaders of the bands, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Brubeck.
Also to be honored this year, the center announced, are actor Robert De Niro, writer-director Mel Brooks and opera singer Grace Bumbry.
All are American-born innovative artists, whose careers have indisputably thrilled millions of fans for decades.
"With his hilarious movies and musicals, Mel Brooks has created comedic gems that will keep us laughing for years to come. [Jazz great] Dave Brubeck's genius has dazzled us for six decades and has helped to define an American art form," said Stephen A. Schwarzman, the center's chairman. His statement also praised Bumbry's pioneering work. "Grace Bumbry helped to break the color barrier on her way to one of the most illustrious operatic careers in the 20th century."
He saluted De Niro and Springsteen for their connection with artistry, songs and their audiences. "One of America's greatest cinematic actors, Robert De Niro has demonstrated a legendary commitment to his characters and has co-founded one of the world's major film festivals.
"With his gritty and honest songs that speak to the Everyman, Bruce Springsteen has always had his finger on the pulse of America," Schwarzman said.
Melvin Kaminsky, the Brooklyn-born entertainer now known to the world as Mel Brooks, has successfully conquered the worlds of film, stage and television. He won an Oscar for his 1968 screenplay of "The Producers." More than 30 years later, the 2001 Broadway musical version of the same story starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, which Brooks produced, received 12 Tony Awards. In television, Brooks won an Emmy for writing in 1967, as well as acting Emmys for appearances on the comedy series "Mad About You" during the late 1990s. His Grammy Awards started in 1999 with "The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000" and continued with two awards for the score of "The Producers" in 2002.
Starting his career in the early days of television, Brooks worked with Sid Caesar and Carl Reiner on "Your Show of Shows" and later, with Buck Henry, created the popular series "Get Smart." His film output has included the cult classics "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein."
Brooks, 83, had this to say about being honored: "Just recently I met a girl who was very thin -- I mean we're talkin' skinny here. This girl was so skinny that last night I took her to a restaurant and the head waiter said, 'Check your umbrella?' But on a more serious note, I'd like to tell you how excited I am to be recognized by the Kennedy Center. I am thrilled to be part of the distinguished and talented parade of past recipients, and I am truly grateful for this honor."
Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen, 59, of Long Branch, N.J., also known as "The Boss," has been writing rock ballads and anthems since the early 1970s. He has sung of working-class America, the treatment of war veterans ("Born in the U.S.A."), the hard joy of the Jersey Shore (in "Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.") and profound anguish after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks ("The Rising").
Springsteen has earned 19 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for "Streets of Philadelphia" and two Golden Globes. His tours with the E Street Band are blockbuster events, and he has sold more than 120 million albums.
For a full-blast guy who can dominate a stage for 3 1/2 hours, Springsteen released a simple statement: "It is with honor that I accept this recognition. It is a privilege to be recognized in the company of the very best of my fellow artists."