Kennedy Center Honors 2021 Performers & Presenters

Pictured top L to R: Lorne Michaels and Bette Midler. Pictured bottom L to R: Justino Diaz, Joni Mitchell and Berry Gordy.

CBS Pictured top L to R: Lorne Michaels and Bette Midler. Pictured bottom L to R: Justino Diaz, Joni Mitchell and Berry Gordy.

The 44th Kennedy Center Honors airs on CBS tonight. Tonight is the 44th Kennedy Center Honors, paying tribute to stars Joni Mitchell, Justino Diaz, Lorne Michael, Bette Midler and Berry Gordy.

“This year’s Honorees represent the unifying power of the Arts and surely remind us of that which binds us together as human beings. These artists are equal parts genius, inspiration, and entertainment,” Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said in a press release. “After the challenges and heartbreak of the last many months, and as we celebrate 50 years of the Kennedy Center, I dare add that we are prepared to throw ‘the party to end all parties’ in D.C. on Dec. 5th, feting these extraordinary people and welcoming audiences back to our campus. We look forward to shaping an even more exciting Honors program and broadcast with CBS and the producers based on the success and newfound innovations of our 43rd Honors earlier this year.”

Previous Kennedy Center Honoree and former “Late Night” host David Letterman will open the evening, followed by a star-studded lineup of presenters and performers.


Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell

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Joni Mitchell is a 78-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter and painter who counts among her many accolades the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. As Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein said in a press release, “Songstress Joni Mitchell, blends raw, deeply personal lyrics with her stunningly ethereal voice in 19 albums, becoming one of the most influential singer-songwriters and cultural figures in 20th-century popular music.”

To celebrate her legacy, Graham Nash will narrate the film and Cameron Crowe and Dan Levy will be presenters. The performers include:

  • Norah Jones performing “The Circle Game,” “A Case of You” and “Help Me”
  • Ellie Goulding performing “Big Yellow Taxi”
  • Brandi Carlile performing “River”
  • Herbie Hancock performing “Both Sides Now”
  • Brittany Howard performing “Both Sides Now”

Justino Díaz

Justino Diaz

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Justino Diaz is an 81-year-old Puerto Rican bass-baritone opera singer. As Rubenstein said, “With his distinguished, deeply resonant voice and storied operatic career, Justino Díaz stood on the stages of the world’s great opera houses and today stands as one of the greatest bass-baritones of our time.”

To celebrate his legacy, Chita Rivera will narrate the film and Grace Bumbry, Denyce Graves and Chita Rivera will be presenters. The performers include:

  • Christian Van Horn performing “Votre Toast (Toreador Song),” “Final Scene from Faust”
  • Denyce Graves performing “Votre Toast (Toreador Song)”
  • Ariana Wehr performing “Votre Toast (Toreador Song)”
  • Hannah Shea performing “Votre Toast (Toreador Song)”
  • Ana Maria Martinez performing “Final Scene from Faust”
  • Matthew Polenzani performing “Final Scene from Faust”

Lorne Michaels

Lorne Michaels

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Lorne Michaels is the 77-year-old Canadian-American television producer and screenwriter best known for creating “Saturday Night Live.” The Emmy winner was a 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient in 2016. As Rubenstein added, “Lorne Michaels created the most enduring ‘must-see television’ with ‘Saturday Night Live,’ a show that is both mirror and muse for life in America.”

In celebration of his legacy are tribute participants:


Bette Midler

Bettle Midler

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Bette Midler is a 76-year-old singer, songwriter, comedian and actress, who has won Grammy, Emmy and Tony Awards. She was also previously nominated for an Academy Award. “An artistic tour de force and America’s Divine Miss M, Bette Midler has enjoyed an unrivaled and prolific career, entertaining millions with her wondrous voice and trademark comedic wit,” Rubenstein said in a press release.

To celebrate her legacy, Adele will narrate the film and Goldie Hawn, Scarlett Johansson, Melissa Manchester and Barabara Hershey will be presenters. The performers include:

  • Beanie Feldstein performing “Friends”
  • Kate Baldwin performing “Friends”
  • Taylor Trensch performing “Friends”
  • Kelli O’Hara performing “Wind Beneath My Wings”
  • Billy Porter performing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Love is On the Way,” “From a Distance”

Berry Gordy

Berry Gordy

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Known as the founder of Motown, Berry Gordy is a 92-year-old record executive, producer and songwriter. Rubenstein said of the Grammy-nominated music industry legend, “Visionary music producer and songwriter Berry Gordy brought the quintessential soulfulness of Detroit into every home in America, elevating the Motown sound to become a national treasure.”

To celebrate his legacy, Oprah Winfrey will narrate the film and Smokey Robinson will present. The performers include:

  • Smokey Robinson performing “Did You Know”
  • “Ain’t Too Proud” Broadway Cast performing “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”
  • Andra Day performing “God Bless the Child”
  • Stevie Wonder performing “Fingertips Pt. 2,” “My Cherie Amour,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Superstition”

CBS will air the 44th Kennedy Center Honors on December 22, 2021, starting at 9 p.m. Eastern time.

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