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Kennedy Center Honors 2007

December 26th, 2007 · No Comments

Every year I look forward to watching the broadcast of this annual event, then do a Homer Simpson DOH! when I hear about it the day after it aired.  Not that it should be difficult to catch – the show traditionally airs during the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  But my brain gets wiped clean after the Christmas retail season, and the week after is spent stumbling along, trying to remember my name and where I put the car keys.

This year, however, I ain’t gonna miss it!  The show promises to be a fun one, what with all five of the honorees being in some way related to things musical:

Diana Ross: she of The Supremes, and all that other bad music that came afterward.  But, still, she was a Supreme, and it doesn’t get much better than that.  Furthermore, I bonded with “Stop! In The Name Of Love” in college, which provided me with my morning entertainment at the beginning of each semester as I walked by the Harvard Lampoon castle on my way to classes, watching the ‘Poonie wannabes – in a humiliating but hilarious hazing ritual – dancing on the sidewalk like a preppy drag queen line to an endless loop of the song.

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(Can’t you just picture it?);

Leon Fleisher: this man is amazing, and his true life story reads like a fantasy melodrama.  A brilliant classical piano pedagogue (at The Curtis Institute of Music, and Peabody Conservatory), I first knew of this man when I purchased a cassette tape of his recording of the Grieg and Schumann piano concertos, then proceeded to wear it out – I actually had to buy another one TO SURVIVE! – while I was writing my senior thesis in college.  Fleisher lost the use of his right hand in the mid-sixties due to a rare neurological disease, forcing his focus from playing to teaching until, in recent years, a miraculous recovery (due to Botox treatments, of all things) has brought him back to the performing and recording world.  This man’s story is easily as inspirational as his pianistic talent;

Brian Wilson: he is THE Beach Boy and, even though he today seems really, really wacky, there is no denying his talent and the impact he has had on pop music (including the acknowledged fact that without the creation of Pet Sounds, The Beatles would not have been inspired to create Sgt. Pepper in an attempt to better it).  The music of The Beach Boys is the soundtrack to most of our childhoods, certainly mine;

Martin Scorsese: yes, he’s a filmmaker – not a musician, technically.  But, anyone who has ever seen a Scorsese film knows that the music score and selection of songs that make up the soundtrack are as essential to his work as the script, the restless cinematography, or the acting.  Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Casino, The Departed would be vastly different films without the character inserted by their soundtracks.  Scorsese himself oversees the musical choices for his films, as one might expect, and his collaborators have included Peter Gabriel, Philip Glass and Bernard Herrmann.

This famous tracking shot from Goodfellas is music to my eyes.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Scorsese has directed some of the best rock music documentary films ever, including The Band’s The Last Waltz, and Bob Dylan: No Direction Home, with a concert film of The Rolling Stones wrapped and set for release in 2008;

Steve Martin: well, he used to play the banjo during his stand-up routine.

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I wonder who chooses the recipients.  Whoever it is, this year they have chosen a very interesting bunch.

an addendum, from kennedy-center.org:

Members of the Kennedy Center’s national artists committee, as well as past Honorees, made recommendations of possible Honorees. Among the artists making recommendations were: Emanuel Ax, Dan Aykroyd, Jon Robin Baitz, Dave Brubeck, Kenny Chesney, Francis Ford Coppola, Melissa Etheridge, Laurence Fishburne, Renee Fleming, Anjelica Huston, India.Arie, Evgeny Kissin, Rob Marshall, Peter Martins, Terrence McNally, Helen Mirren, Anna Netrebko, Christopher Plummer, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Catherine Zeta-Jones. Previous Kennedy Center Honorees Edward Albee, Julie Andrews, Carol Burnett, Sean Connery, Bill Cosby, Kirk Douglas, Elton John, Mike Nichols, Smokey Robinson and Steven Spielberg also made nominations.

Tags: film · music

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