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James Taylor and Carly together again and who should really play the Kennedy Center Honors

From far left: James Taylor and Carly Simon perform during anti-nuclear concert at Madison Square Garden in New York, Sept. 20, 1979. (Carlos Rene Perez/AP)

Obviously, we have no influence over who serenades the Kennedy Center Honorees Sunday night. If we did, we’d have already devoted the entire production budget to Aretha, a baby grand and that fur coat. We certainly would never, ever let things like this happen. So who will play the gig? As usual, the producers are keeping that a closely guarded secret. But in the spirit of inspiring entertainment gold – and with not even a casual interest in CBS’s ratings – we came up with our own mock lineup for the evening.

Mavis Staples
To inspire an emotional response: Bob Dylan. Mavis once spurned his marriage proposal. According to our script, she says yes, on stage, and instead of vows, Bob reads her his entire Nobel prize speech.
Obvious: Aretha Franklin. Yes, we already mentioned her. So what. Would a performance of “Respect Yourself” be anything less than a show-stopper?
Unexpected: The Rolling Stones. They’re doing that old guys looks back thing with the blues record, so it shouldn’t be much trouble to play “The Last Time” as a reminder of how much they were, er, influenced by the Staples Singers’ “This May Be the Last Time.”

Emotional: Deacon Frey. The late Glenn Frey’s son is reportedly talented in his own right and a ringer for his dad on “Peaceful Easy Feeling.”
Obvious: Jackson Browne. He co-wrote the band’s iconic 1972 hit, “Take It Easy,” and stood in as the singer when the surviving Eagles performed a tribute to Frey at last year’s Grammys.
Unexpected: Rihanna. You won’t need a band. Let her loose, a cappella, on “Desperado.” Save the hanky you used to wipe the tears after Deacon. They’ll be flowing like the Nile.

[Don Henley says the Eagles are done. It was always Glenn Frey’s band.]

Martha Argerich
Emotional: Nelson Freire. One of Argerich’s past loves and oldest friends, he could play a melting Chopin nocturne, like Op. 27 no. 2, in tribute to one of their shared strengths.
Obvious: Gidon Kremer. The maverick violinist is one of Argerich’s most stalwart chamber-music partners (and will be playing with the National Symphony Orchestra in January).
Unexpected: Yuja Wang. Ready to don Argerich’s mantel as the pianistic powerhouse of the next generation, Wang could offer star wattage, pyrotechnics, and musicianship worthy of the honoree.

James Taylor
Emotional: Carly Simon. They loved, divorced, then stopped speaking. One more “Mockingbird” could heal a nation of Boomer hearts.
Obvious: Carole King. She and Taylor were almost musically inseparable in the early ‘70s, part of the Troubadour scene that nurtured Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles. The song will have to be “You’ve Got a Friend.”
Unexpected: Sturgill Simpson. Imagine AM-chestnut “Fire and Rain” in the palms of the neo-country star.

[Al Pacino was nearly fired from ‘The Godfather.’ The rest is history.]

Al Pacino
Emotional: Gene Hackman. The greatest retired, living actor starred with Al in the criminally forgotten “Scarecrow.” Pacino would clearly appreciate a few words on acting itself from the great one.
Obvious: Francis Ford Coppola. Is there ever a moment we don’t want to hear a “Godfather” anecdote from Francis?
Unexpected: Chris O’Donnell. The “Scent of a Woman” co-star can escape the Hollywood witness protection program – sorry, an NCIS spin-off does not constitute a comeback – and reminisce about Al’s Oscar-winning role.