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Kennedy Center Honors 2010: Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney among honorees

Washington Post Staff
Monday, December 6, 2010; 12:45 PM

Many were on hand at the Kennedy Center Honors to praise the talents of Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney, Merle Haggard, Jerry Herman, and Bill T. Jones. As Paul Farhi reported:

Half the fun of the Kennedy Center Honors, and almost all of the surprise, comes from who shows up to celebrate whom each year. The celebrator-celebrated combos are often intriguing, and occasionally a bit puzzling - Sunday night's gala being Exhibit A.

Sure, Willie Nelson naturally showed up to sing the praises of honoree Merle Haggard, and Broadway legends Carol Channing and Angela Lansbury (looking and sounding swell at 89 and 85, respectively) did the same in honor of "Mame" and "Hello, Dolly!" composer-lyricist Jerry Herman.

But Alec Baldwin doing the intro for Paul McCartney? And Steven Tyler, Norah Jones, Dave Grohl and Gwen Stefani and No Doubt providing the Beatles covers? Same thing with Julia Roberts introducing Oprah Winfrey, or Claire Danes and playwright Edward Albee speaking on behalf of honoree Bill T. Jones, an avant-garde choreographer.

As per usual the Kennedy Centers Honors ceremony offered a potential for a one-of-a-kind jam session:

The formal dinner that kicks off the annual Kennedy Center Honors could have been a one-of-a-kind jam session.

Perhaps because rock legend Paul McCartney and country legend Merle Haggard were among the honorees, along with Broadway lyricist Jerry Herman, a record number of great voices and musicians were among the guests.

President Obama gave his own tribute to the honorees, as AP reported:

President Barack Obama says the five men and women who were chosen to receive this year's Kennedy Center Honors have "given the nation the extraordinary gift of the arts."

Although each one has what the president says is a "staggering amount of talent," Obama said they aren't being recognized for their careers as great lyricists, songwriters, dancers or entertainers. Instead, he said,they are being celebrated for their ability to bring people together.

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