CAROLINE KENNEDY RETURNS AS HOST OF "THE 31ST ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS," TO BE BROADCAST DEC. 30 ON THE CBS TELEVISION NETWORK
Morgan Freeman, George Jones, Barbra Streisand, Twyla Tharp, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey Are This Year's Honorees at the Gala to Be Taped Dec. 7
CBS Has Broadcast the Kennedy Center Honors Each Year Since Its Debut 31 Years Ago
Caroline Kennedy returns as host of THE 31ST ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS, a new entertainment special to be broadcast Tuesday, Dec. 30 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. This marks the 31st year of the special, which has been broadcast on CBS each year since its debut.
Actor Morgan Freeman, singer George Jones, director, actress, singer, writer, composer and producer Barbra Streisand, choreographer Twyla Tharp, and musicians Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who will receive honors for the year 2008. Kennedy will serve as host for the sixth consecutive year.
In a star-studded celebration on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage, the 2008 Honorees will be saluted by great performers from Hollywood and the arts capitals of the world. Seated with President and Mrs. Bush, the Honorees will accept the thanks of their peers and fans through performances and heartfelt tributes.
The President and Mrs. Bush will receive the Honorees and members of the Artists Committee, who nominate them, along with the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees at the White House prior to the gala performance taping on Dec. 7. The 2008 Kennedy Center Honors Gala concludes with a dinner dance in the Grand Foyer. The Kennedy Center Honors will be bestowed the night before the gala at a State Department dinner, hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The Honors recipients are recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts - whether in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures or television - and are selected by the Kennedy Center's Board of Trustees. Members of the Kennedy Center's national artists committee as well as past Honorees made recommendations. The primary criterion in the selection process is excellence. The Honors are not designated by art form or category of artistic achievement. The selection process over the years has produced balance among the various arts and artistic disciplines.
Morgan Freeman was born in Memphis, Tennessee on June 1, 1937. For decades, the name Morgan Freeman has been synonymous with distinguished screen acting. He is one of the most respected performers currently making movies. Even back in the late 1980s, when Freeman was just entering his period of artistic maturity and stardom with two Academy Award nominations in three years for "Street Smart" and "Driving Miss Daisy," film authority Pauline Kael was already asking: "Is Morgan Freeman the greatest actor in America today?" It was an astonishing critical milestone in his career, considering that most of his brilliant performances were still to come in movies such as "Lean on Me," "Glory," "Unforgiven," "The Shawshank Redemption," "Seven," "Amistad," "Deep Impact," "Nurse Betty," "The Sum of All Fears," "Long Walk to Freedom," "Batman Begins," "Gone Baby Gone" and "Million Dollar Baby" in which, once again directed by Eastwood, Freeman gave a stunning, deeply moving performance that brought him the 2005 Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. In a blaze of dazzling versatility proclaiming an artist at the top of his game, the year 2008 signaled Freeman's eagerly anticipated return to the Broadway stage in the Mike Nichols production of "The Country Girl" as well as his resonant contributions to Hollywood summer blockbusters "Batman: The Dark Knight" and "Wanted."
Shortly following his "Million Dollar Baby" Academy Award victory, Morgan Freeman confessed that he had wanted to become a movie actor at age 15. "This is the fight I've been fighting all of my life."
That life began in Tennessee, where he was born, and in Mississippi, where he was raised. In elementary school, he was the star of the school play. By age 12 he had won a statewide drama competition, and by the time he was in high school he was already performing on the radio in Nashville. Following a stint in the U.S. Air Force as a mechanic from 1955 to 1959, Freeman first went to Hollywood. However, it was in New York City that his impressively varied acting career - spanning theater, television and eventually movies - got started. The stage showcased his versatility right from the start. In 1968 he appeared on Broadway in the legendary all-black production of "Hello, Dolly!" That was followed by "Purlie," a best featured actor Tony Award nomination for "The Mighty Gents" (1978), Obie Awards for "The Gospel at Colonus" (1984) and "Driving Miss Daisy" (1987), acclaimed performances for the New York Shakespeare Festival as Coriolanus and as Petruchio in "The Taming of the Shrew."
National recognition first came to him on television and he became a beloved teacher-entertainer to America's children when, in 1971, he created the popular character Easy Reader on the highly praised public television show "The Electric Company." Renee Zellweger, Freeman's costar in "Nurse Betty," recalls: "He's one of the first faces in my memory. As far back as I can remember there's been a Morgan Freeman, from 'Electric Company.' He taught me my first noun." Throughout the '80s he complemented his stage work with performances in several landmark television movies: "The Marva Collins Story" (1981) and "The Atlanta Child Murders" (1985), both with Cicely Tyson; "Attica" (1980) and "The Execution of Raymond Graham" (1985).
Early feature film credits from this period include "Brubaker" (1980), "Eyewitness" (1981), "Harry and Son" (1984), and "That Was Then...This Is Now" (1985). Then "Street Smart" came out in 1987 and Morgan Freeman became a star. He won the Los Angeles, New York and National Society of Film Critics awards for Best Supporting Actor and was nominated for both a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award. In the following two years he appeared in "Clean and Sober," "Johnny Handsome" and the film version of "Driving Miss Daisy," which led to another Academy Award nomination and more extraordinary reviews such and Vincent Canby's rave in The New York Times: "Though the character never appears to be tough, it is a tough performance....the work of an actor who has gone through all of the possibilities, stripped away all of the extraneous details and arrived at an essence." In other words, he has achieved what all great actors strive for and only the few accomplish. In case that wasn't enough to convince audiences, critics, directors and producers that Morgan Freeman was indeed a rare and awesome talent, that same year he gave one of his most affecting performances as a high school principal in "Lean on Me" and appeared opposite Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick in the epic Civil War drama "Glory."
"I like being eclectic, the more varied the better, the wider the range," Freeman explained to The Washington Post. "A good story and an interesting character is all I am looking for." That sense of daring, that refusal to be typecast, that willingness to risk it all for the sake of his art marks his every choice of role and distinguishes his every performance. Freeman is often cast in roles that were not specifically written as African-American characters - something still truly rare even today. Sidney Poitier, the first and arguably the greatest of all black film superstars, admits to being one of Morgan Freeman's biggest fans. "I love his work. He is a gifted and extraordinarily well-trained actor. He works with the kind of discipline that captures reality."
George Jones was born in Saratoga, Texas on Sept. 12, 1931. The best way to know country music is to listen to George Jones. Blessed with a voice that sounds like no other and a style that is definitely his own, the man who helped make country music cool remains, at 77, one of the vital forces in American music. "There's no mistaking his influence," noted The Washington Post, about the man who had his first Number One hit in 1959. "His name is synonymous with emotionally unvarnished and unguarded honky-tonk music, a rallying cry for singers half his age." Once famously singled out by Frank Sinatra as "the second best singer in America," Jones is, in fact, "the personification of cool," according to The Toronto Star. Cool, yes, but always carefree and very personal: Jones means every note, every word he sings-the feelings are real, the music always true. The Los Angeles Times summed up the Jones phenomenon this way in 2008: "He's known as The Voice, and his songbook alone will bring tears to concertgoers' eyes: Songs such as 'He Stopped Loving her Today,' 'The Grand Tour' and 'The Race Is On' capture the stoic, survival-minded fatalism of that generation some call the greatest, now slipping away. Honor George Jones while he's still with us."
His career has been colorful. Nicknamed the Silver-Haired Possum, Jones has been noted not only for his solo hits but variously for his collaborations - with everyone from Melba Montgomery and the 1960's country rocker Gene Pitney right through Merle Haggard, Ray Charles, Keith Richard, and the First Lady of Country Music, Jones's former wife, Tammy Wynette. In tough times, and he has lived through a few, he got by with a little help from his friends Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. Jones has a legendary fondness for fast lawn mowers, and his ventures into the food business have given the world a variety of "George Jones Country-Style Breakfast Sausage" and "Country Style Hamburger Patties," as well as his own "Tennessee Sipping Water."
George Glenn Jones was born and bred in Texas. He grew up listening to gospel music on Sundays and to country on the radio every day. He got his first guitar at the age of 9 and was soon playing for change on the streets of Beaumont. By age 16 he was singing on the radio and making music until he joined the U.S. Marines. After the Korean War, his career took off. He hit the charts in 1955 with "Why, Baby, Why," and was named "Most Promising Country Vocalist" by Billboard in 1956, and "Male Vocalist of the Year" in 1962 and 1963 - the beginning of a long string of such accolades. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1969, entered the Walkway of Stars at the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970, and was singled out by Cash Box in 1972, 1973 and 1976 as half of a Top Duo for his recordings with Tammy Wynette. The devastatingly personal "He Stopped Loving Her Today," a bit of truth in music that would become Jones's signature song, was named Song of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1981 and 1982. "He Stopped Loving Her Today" also earned him his first Grammy Award, and it was later voted "All Time Country Song" in 1992.
Jones has charted more singles than any artist in any musical format - 166 and counting. The list of his Number One Country Hits alone is staggering, including "White Lightning," "Tender Years," "She Still Thinks I Care," "Walk Through this World with Me," "We're Gonna Hold On" with Tammy Wynette, who also joined him in the chart-toppers "Golden Ring" and "Near You"; "The Grand Tour," "Still Doin' Time," "Yesterday's Wine" with Merle Haggard, and "I Always Get Lucky with You." He hit close to home in his duet with Dolly Parton, "The Blues Man," composed by Hank Williams, Jr., when he and the country music goddess sang of a singer who "started drinkin', took some things that messed up his thinking, got cuffed on dirt roads, got sued over no shows."
The Country Music Hall of Fame inducted Jones in 1992. In 2002, he received the National Medal of Arts. His autobiography "I Lived To Tell It All" became a bestseller. George Jones' duet with Barbara Mandrell, "(I Was Country) When Country Wasn't Cool," another Number One Country Hit, did nothing but tell the truth. He's still cool.
Barbra Streisand was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on April 24, 1942. From the start, her genius was impossible to ignore. Among the first to take notice of Barbra Streisand was Harold Arlen, who had this to say after hearing the performer's debut "The Barbra Streisand Album": "Did you ever hear Helen Morgan sing? Were you ever at the theater when Fanny Brice clowned in her classic comedic way, or when Beatrice Lillie deliciously poked fun at all sham and pomp? Have you heard our top vocalists belt, whisper or sing with that steady and urgent beat behind them? Have you ever seen a painting by Modigliani? If you have, do not think the above has been ballooned out of proportion. I advise you to watch over Barbra Streisand's career. This young lady (a mere 20) has a stunning future. Keep listening, keep watching. And please remember, I told you so."
For more than 40 years, Barbra Streisand's trailblazing career in music, theater, films and television has been and remains one of the most thrilling spectacles of our culture. Her voice is recognizable as no one else's within a note or two. Her way with Gershwin and Bernstein and Sondheim, with Rodgers and Hammerstein and Michel Legrand and Alan and Marilyn Bergman - even with the likes of Debussy, Schumann and Wolf - her way with the greatest songs of all time - has been a gift to American culture.
A quick glance at a list of Streisand firsts is staggering. Her first Broadway appearance, in "I Can Get It for You Wholesale," earned her a New York Drama Critics Circle Award as well as a Tony� Award nomination. Her first album, "The Barbra Streisand Album," got not one but two Grammy Awards in 1963 including Album of the Year, making her at that time the youngest artist ever to have received that award. In 1965, Streisand's first television special, "My Name Is Barbra," redefined and revitalized the genre, earning a total of five Emmy Awards as well as the distinguished Peabody Award. It is one of many signs of this amazing career that three decades after that first batch of Emmy Awards, her "Barbra Streisand: The Concert" copped two Emmys for the singer as well three more for her production-and more Emmys again came her way in 2001 for "Barbra Streisand: Timeless, Live in Concert."
Her first motion picture, "Funny Girl," earned her the 1968 Academy Award for Best Actress. Jule Styne, the "Funny Girl" composer, commented early on that "besides possessing a God-given singing voice, Barbra is the first girl I have ever heard who is a great actress in each song. Barbra makes every song sound like a well-written three-act play performed stunningly in three minutes."
Streisand is the highest-selling female artist of all time. With 50 gold albums, and 13 multi-platinum, sales of Streisand albums are ahead of those of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones and second only to Elvis - making her the only artist among the top four of all time who is not part of the Rock and Roll revolution. Her Number One solo albums so far span more than three decades, a longevity simply unmatched by any other solo recording artist.
Barbra Streisand is the first female composer to win an Academy Award, for her aptly named song "Evergreen" from the hit 1976 film "A Star Is Born." In 1983, "Yentl" made Streisand the first woman ever to produce, direct, write and star in a major motion picture. Smashing right through Hollywood's glass ceiling, "The Prince of Tides" was the first film directed by its female star to receive a Best Director nomination from the Directors Guild of America as well as seven Academy Award nominations. The first dramatic television feature from Streisand's own Barwood Films, the pioneering "Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story," earned three Emmy Awards and signaled Streisand's commitment to social justice. The activist work of the founder of the Streisand Foundation - which continues to benefit everything from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Center for Public Integrity to the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund and the Cedars-Sinai Women's Heart Center - is a part of this indomitable woman's art. In 2004, Barbra Streisand received the Humanitarian Award from the Human Rights campaign.
She was born in Brooklyn in 1942, the daughter of Diana and Emanuel Streisand. Her father, a dedicated and respected teacher who had emigrated from Vienna, passed away when Barbra was only 15 months. While still in her teens, and an honor student at Erasmus High School in Brooklyn, she burst into show business with a singing contest at a small Greenwich Village club, leading to gigs at the Bon Soir and the Blue Angel and, in 1962, to a contract with Columbia Records. That same year, Streisand landed a small but, as it turned out, unforgettable role: Miss Marmelstein in "I Can Get it for You Wholesale." What followed is the stuff of living legend: "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1962, opening for Liberace in Las Vegas in 1963, "Funny Girl" at the Winter Garden in 1964, and reprised in 1966 in London's West End at the Prince of Wales. A moving passing-of-the-mantle was televised, as Streisand appeared as a guest in "The Judy Garland Show," where "Happy Days Are Here Again" became - later with "People" and "Don't Rain On My Parade" - a signature Streisand song. Her own television specials followed and redefined the musical possibilities of television itself, from "My Name Is Barbra" in 1965 right through "Color Me Barbra," "The Belle of 14th Street," "Barbra Streisand and Other Musical Instruments," plus a historic concert in Central Park in 1967 and the more recent live shows such as "One Voice."
Her movie career flourished, with a triumphant debut in "Funny Girl," "Hello Dolly!," "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever," the saucy "The Owl and the Pussycat," the protofeminist "Up The Sandbox," the heartbreaking "The Way We Were," "A Star Is Born," "Yentl," the screwball classic "What's Up, Doc?" and the "Prince of Tides."
Richard Rodgers, one of the first Kennedy Center Honorees and an early Streisand champion, summed up her talent best when he enthused that "Nobody is talented enough to get laughs, to bring tears, to sing with the depth of a fine cello or the lift of a climbing bird. Nobody, that is, except Barbra. She makes our musical world a much happier place." Bowled over by this American's way with French chansons, as well as with her own American Songbook, none other than Maurice Chevalier proclaimed, "Barbra Streisand is one of those miracles which comes along once in a lifetime. She is mad with talent and more gifted than any human being should be permitted to be. We embrace you, Barbra Streisand." So does the whole world.
Twyla Tharp was born in Portland, Indiana on July 1, 1941. She is an American original. And, for all their hip edginess and carefree lines, her dances at once celebrate and create the best of the American dream. From "Deuce Coupe" to "Push Comes to Shove," from "Once More Frank" to "Hair" and "The Catherine Wheel," from "Nine Sinatra Songs" and "Movin' Out" to "Americans We," the breathtaking "In the Upper Room" and beyond, Twyla Tharp has changed the face of American dance. With disarming brashness, she has been clear about her life's work. "Modern dance is not less," she has said, "modern dance is more. It's everything that came before it, plus."
Plus indeed: Since graduating from Barnard College in 1963, Tharp has created 135 dances so far, choreographed five movies, written two best-selling books, won a Tony� Award and a couple of Emmy Awards, received 19 honorary doctorates, the Vietnam Veterans of America President's Award, a MacArthur fellowship, the 2004 National Medal of the Arts and the 2008 Jerome Robbins Award. She founded her own company, Twyla Tharp Dance, fresh from college in 1965, and she has choreographed for her own dancers and for many other companies, including the American Ballet Theatre, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, New York City Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance and the Martha Graham Dance Company.
She is, as The San Francisco Chronicle noted, "deadly serious as an artist and distinctive as a dancemaker: There is urbane humor in Tharp's choreography, and a postmodern rigor often clothed in insouciance. Twyla Tharp has created a monumental legacy that is as varied as the dance world witnessed. Virtually all dance techniques are mutually compatible in Tharp's universe, where the classical and the unclassifiable tend to smile side by side."
Take just one typical, dazzling dance, her "How Near Heaven," set to a haunting Benjamin Britten score, which had its world premiere at the Opera House during ABT's 1995 Kennedy Center season. Here was a stunningly formal, sensual piece that, like the music, both appreciated and made history. Here was Tharp paying affectionate homage to Paul Taylor and even Martha Graham, and here also was Tharp with an eloquent use of pointework, sublime geometries and an utter urgency built into the movement that were and are hers and no one else's.
Twyla Tharp was born in 1941 in Portland, Indiana, and in 1951 she moved with her family to Rialto, California, where her parents opened a drive-in movie theater on Route 66. She attended the Vera Lynn School of Dance, Pacific High School in San Bernardino, and later Pomona College. She transferred to Barnard College in New York, where she studied with Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. After graduating with a degree in art history in 1963, Tharp joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Only two years later, in 1965, she founded Twyla Tharp Dance and, it is no exaggeration to say this-the rest is history.
Her roots are never far. In 1982, Tharp's alma mater gave her its highest honor, the Barnard Medal of Distinction. In 1996, in a brashly autobiographical, multilayered piece called "Tharp!," the mature choreographer looked backed to her old Route 66 days and created "66," a riotous hit set to bachelor pad music that presaged her later dances to the music of Billy Joel and Bob Dylan. Even here, as always, the fun had a serious overtone-she surrounded "66" with a ritual of Shaker hymns called "Sweet Fields" that in the ebb and flow of bodies in motion suggested that we are all nearer to heaven while witnessing a rehearsal for the end.
Tharp's first work on Broadway came in 1980 with "When We Were Very Young," which was followed in 1981 by a now legendary collaboration with David Byrne on "The Catherine Wheel" at the Winter Garden. Her 1985 stage version of "Singin' in the Rain" burst onto the Gershwin Theater stage and went on to an extensive national tour. In 2002, Tharp's irrepressible take on the songs of Billy Joel, the dance musical "Movin' Out," premiered at the Richard Rodgers and ran for three years. "Movin' Out" earned Tharp the 2003 Tony� Award, as well as the 2003 Astaire Award, the Drama League Award for Sustained Achievement in Musical Theater and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Choreography, with UK's Critic's Circle National Dance Award following in 2006 for the London production. In 2006, Tharp turned her sights on the music and lyrics of Kennedy Center Honoree Bob Dylan, creating "The Times They Are A-Changin'."
Her work on motion pictures has been as varied as it has been thrilling. She captured the beat of the American heart in Milos Forman's film versions of "Hair" in 1978, perhaps most touchingly in "Ragtime" in 1980, and winningly in "Amadeus" in 1984. She collaborated with Taylor Hackford in "White Nights" in 1985, and with James Brooks on "I'll Do Anything" in 1994. On television, Tharp inaugurated PBS's groundbreaking "Dance in America" series with "Sue's Leg," and her other work has included such other popular dance programs as the video version of "The Catherine Wheel" for the BBC, and the television special "Baryshnikov by Tharp," which won two Emmy Awards as well as a Director's Guild of American Award for Outstanding Director Achievement.
Her 1992 autobiography, "Push Comes To Shove," remains a model of candor and insight. In her 2003 "The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life," Tharp emerged for many readers as at least as useful a mentor for living as she is for dancing. She makes it sound so simple: "I have always believed a strong classical training is a very good foundation for moving in any direction," Tharp has said. In virtually any direction she chooses, she has given us quite a lot.
PETE TOWNSHEND AND ROGER DALTREY
Pete Townshend was born in London, England on May 19, 1945 and Roger Daltrey was born in London on March 1, 1944. The Who changed the face of Rock and Roll. Townshend and Daltrey, individually and through The Who, have given the world memories such as these: "My Generation," "Baba O'Riley," "Who Are You" and "Won't Get Fooled Again," not to mention "Pinball Wizard" and "See Me, Feel Me" from "The Who's Tommy," which introduced a whole new generation to the group. "If the Rolling Stones symbolize the bad-boy aspect of Rock and Roll," proclaimed The Washington Post, "England's The Who always stood for commitment, intelligence, responsibility, positive action."
Together with their late friends John Entwistle and Keith Moon, they were one band that will never be forgotten. It is both touching and surprising that these English lads who got together in London's Shepherd's Bush started out - like so many fellow troupers of the British Invasion - by paying tribute to American rhythm and blues. They proclaimed themselves "Maximum R & B," but in fact what they created was all their own: a dazzling gift from the Old World to the New. Well into the band's career, "Melody Maker" declared, "Surely The Who are now the band against which all others are to be judged." In 1990, the first year of their eligibility, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On that occasion, U2's Bono disarmingly confessed, "More than any other band, The Who are our role models."
They remain the rambunctious Godfathers of Punk, the visionary pioneers of rock opera, the predecessors of both the cool Britpop signaled by such groups as Oasis and Blur - but also the seminal influence behind decidedly intense hard rock acts from Led Zeppelin to The Clash. The Sex Pistols took note of The Who's sound and attitude. They were the first rock artists to take seriously the possibilities of synthesizers and electronic music. The Ramones, Pearl Jam, Green Day and Hilary Duff, The Grateful Dead and Van Halen, Phish, Scorpions, Nirvana and U2 - with Buddy Rich thrown in for good measure - all tried their hands at the songs of The Who. Their sound fills the airwaves in the 21st Century, providing the TV themes of CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, CSI: MIAMI and CSI: NEW YORK. The Broadway version of "Tommy" won five Tony� Awards and introduced a whole new generation to The Who.
On their own, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey have taken their own amazing journeys while making unforgettable music along the way. Townshend, whose spiritual path has been one of Rock and Roll's most remarkable surprises, has remained not only true to music but also a creative force in literature, writing film scripts, magazine columns, the short story collection "Horse's Neck," and, of course, a lot of lyrics. Daltrey, with eight solo albums and counting, was consecrated as an actor with Ken Russell's film version of "Tommy" and has continued an exciting theatrical career as both an actor and producer. Their philanthropic work is legend. They both are rockers after all, and they continue to perform as The Who. Now in their 60s, the kids are alright.
Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend was born in 1945 in Chiswick, West London. He came from a musical family, his father was a saxophone player with the RAF's own Squadronaires, and his mother was a professional singer. He began studying the piano but, after seeing the picture "Rock Around the Clock," his vocation was clear. He moved on from jazz to rock, arrived at the blues and took them to cool London clubs with a precocious lineup of John Entwistle first on trumpet and later on bass, Townshend on guitar and Daltrey singing. Keith Moon joined them in 1964. That was The Who.
Townshend emerged as The Who's spokesman, the articulate driving force behind what soon became one of the most powerful forces in Rock and Roll. His body of work, from "My Generation" and "I Can See for Miles," "Tommy" and beyond, announced to the world that this was not, by any means, just another infantryman of the British Invasion. His leaps in the air, his windmill guitar style, his more than joining in on the destruction of instruments on stage, and most of all his furious, crunching power chords created a new rock syntax. In 1967, at the height of The Who's popularity, Townshend became a follower of the Indian avatar Meher Baba, whose gentle teachings inform the rocker's music to this day. Townshend's own devotional albums are unique, from "Who Came First" and "Happy Birthday" and "Rough Mix," right through "Empty Glass," "The Iron Man," and "All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes." Townshend, who suffers from partial deafness, provided the initial funding for the non-profit H.E.A.R. foundation (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers). He was the first prominent rock musician to donate his services to Amnesty International. His immortal "Tommy" won the 1993 Tony� Award for Best Original Score, also garnering the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.
Roger Harry Daltrey was born in 1944 in Hammersmith and grew up in the working class London suburb of Acton. He attended Victoria Primary School and then Acton Grammar School for Boys, alongside Pete Townshend and John Entwistle. A born rebel, Daltrey found a home in music and made his first guitar from a block of wood, forming a skiffle band called The Detours. He got his first electric guitar in 1959, got in trouble in school and was expelled. Pete Townshend recalled of his friend, "Roger was a good pupil. Then he heard Elvis and transmogrified into a Teddy Boy with an electric guitar and a dress-sneer. Was it simply Rock and Roll? It was obvious to a young man as intelligent as Roger that there was no future in conforming any more."
Daltrey was a teenage dropout and sheet-metal worker when he brought together Entwistle and Townshend in the Shepherd's Bush Youth Club in 1961, in effect forming the band that would become The Who. Daltrey was the front man for the band and his unstoppable energy then and through the years drove the band's elegant resolve. But Townshend became the unofficial leader of the group early on, and ultimately was The Who's great songwriter. When songwriting itself grew more ambitious, Roger Daltrey transformed himself into the character of Tommy - a bare-chested sexy bundle of charisma and curls, with a distinctive voice rivaled by few in the history of popular music. He took that role to heart, on record, on tour, and in Ken Russell's controversial movie that earned Daltrey a Golden Globe nomination in 1975. He went on to star in Russell's outrageous "Lisztomania," establishing a happy double routine of continuing his singing career with The Who while enjoying acting gigs, including "McVicar" on the big screen, "Lois & Clark" on American television, "The Beggars' Opera" and "The Comedy of Errors" for the BBC, "The Hunting of the Snark" in the West End and "A Christmas Carol" at Madison Square Garden, where he played Scrooge in 1998. He has played Judas in "Jesus Christ Superstar" and Dr. Doolittle in "My Fair Lady." What other rock star can claim such credits? Since 2000, Daltrey has been a patron of the Teenage Cancer Trust, for whom he began working by launching the event The Who & Friends at the Royal Albert Hall that raised more than $2.5 million in ticket, CD and DVD sales for the fight against cancer.
With ever-changing lineups but an ever-constant heart, Townshend and Daltrey are still The Who. And their influence has not stopped.
George Stevens Jr., who created the Honors in 1978 with Nick Vanoff, will produce and co-write the show for the 31st consecutive year. The Honors telecast has been honored with five Emmy Awards for Outstanding Program, and was nominated again this year. It has also been recognized with the Peabody Award for Outstanding Contribution to Television and seven awards from the Writers Guild of America. THE 31ST ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS is sponsored in part by General Motors.
RATING: To Be Announced