The 2021 Kennedy Center Honors airs tonight. Read on for all of the details on the TV broadcast, what time it airs, what channel to watch and more.
For those unfamiliar with the Kennedy Center Honors, it is a ceremony held annually, honoring members of the entertainment industry and performing arts, for their achievements and dedication to American culture. Some of the recipients over the years have included Morgan Freeman, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan, Lauren Bacall, Fred Astaire, Sean Connery, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross, Gloria Estefan, James Earl Jones, Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Mel Brooks, Robert De Niro, and Bruce Springsteen.
Read on below for a rundown on when to watch the show, who the honorees are, and who’s performing.
KENNEDY CENTER HONORS 2021 DATE: The show broadcasts on June 6, 2021, with President Joe Biden’s blessing. Following the global COVID-19 pandemic, Biden welcomed the Kennedy Center honorees, stating that, “The artist’s vision is as important as ever.” Usually, the event is taped in December, but due to the pandemic, it was postponed until May 2021.
KENNEDY CENTER HONORS 2021 TIME: From 8 – 10 p.m. ET, the Kennedy Center Honors are set to air.
KENNEDY CENTER HONORS 2021 CHANNEL: The event will broadcast on the CBS network and will also be available for streaming on Paramount+.
KENNEDY CENTER HONORS 2021 HONOREES: This year’s honorees are actress Debbie Allen, singer-songwriter Joan Baez, country star Garth Brooks, violinist Midori, and the legendary Dick Van Dyke. Upon receiving his nomination for this honor, Brooks released a heartfelt statement to the Kennedy Center Honors.
Brooks said, “President John F. Kennedy was a childhood hero of mine, and he has continued to be through every stage of my life. He knew that a nation is defined by its culture and a culture is defined by its arts. I have watched many of my heroes sit in that booth during their ceremony, I have even had the joyous honor of singing for some of them on their special night. The hope is to have contributed to humanity like my heroes have, to inspire us to be the most we can be as individuals, global citizens, and a part of human history. But most of all, to simply laugh, cry, love, and dream through music … I have been blessed to do just that as a fan and as an artist.”
As for the others, 95-year-old Dick Van Dyke said to CBS This Morning that despite his age, he’s still singing and dancing. He also told Billboard that he couldn’t be “more thrilled” that he has been chosen to be a Kennedy Center honoree.
Debbie Allen posted several photos on her Instagram account to celebrate her honor. She also expressed to the Kennedy Center, “I am truly humbled to be named a Kennedy Center Honoree 2020. This is so much more than our nation’s Highest Artistic Award, it is a measure of how my footprint has resonated as a path of light over the years and in this time of tremendous uncertainty, fear, and search for hope. This glorious achievement I share with my family, mentors, and students who have inspired and pushed me all the way. I look forward to being part of a fresh start for America and reminding the world how essential the Performing Arts are in our lives.”
As for Baez, she reflected on the past year, how entertainment had to be put on hold during the pandemic. She said to Billboard, “It feels like we’re coming out of a dark tunnel and there’s a possibility again for arts and culture.” Midori also spoke to Billboard, with similar feelings, saying, “Coming out of this very dark time of the pandemic, being able to see the arts coming back into our lives again, live, in person … This is also encouragement for me, as well as a motivation to be able to continue to connect with others, to collaborate, to create.”
Kristen Chonweth and David Foster collaborated to create an original song dedicated to this year’s honorees. It’s titled “Human Spark Divine.”
KENNEDY CENTER HONORS 2021 PERFORMERS: Here is a list of the performers, broken down by the honoree they are paying tribute to with their performances.
Debbie Allen – Vanessa Hudgens is joining Ariana DeBose, Vivian Nixon, Tiler Peck, Desmond Richardson, and Anika Noni Rose to perform “Fame”. Nixon and DeBose will also perform “I’m a Brass Band,” as well as “Something Better Than This,” according to Gold Derby. Peck, Richardson and Rose will team up for another performance, singing “Out Here on My Own.”
Joan Baez – Mary Chapin Carpenter and Emmylou Harris will perform three songs – “Diamonds & Rust”, “God is God”, and “We Shall Overcome.” “House of the Rising Sun” will be executed by Sturgill Simpson, and “Silver Dagger” will be performed by Rhiannon Giddens and Dirk Powell.
Garth Brooks – Kelly Clarkson will deliver a moving performance of “The Dance”, while “Friends in Low Places” and “The Thunder Rolls” is going to be performed by Jimmie Allen, “The River” will get sung by James Taylor, and “We Shall Be Free” will be performed by Gladys Knight, as reported by CBS.
Midori – Hilary Hahn will perform “Serenade”, Yo-Yo Ma will be executing “Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1,” and “Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, II. Largo” will get carried out by Adele Anthony and Gil Shaham, according to Gold Derby. “Caprice No. 24” and “The Body Electric” will be performed by Randall Goosby.
Dick Van Dyke – The iconic “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” will be performed by Aaron Tveit and Pentatonix, who will also perform “Step in Time”. Joining them in their “Step in Time” performance are Derek Hough and Laura Osnes. Hough and Osnes will also perform “Put on a Happy Face” together. Osnes will be performing “Jolly Holiday” on her own.
KENNEDY CENTER HONORS 2021 PRESENTERS: Here is a list of the presenters, broken down by the honoree they are representing.
Debbie Allen – Paula Abdul, Phylicia Rashad, Shonda Rhimes, and Tracee Ellis Ross.
Joan Baez – Jackson Browne, Phoebe Bridgers, and Tom Morello.
Garth Brooks – Jason Aldean, Bradley Cooper, Wayne Gretzky, and John Travolta.
Midori – Gustavo Dudamel, John Lithgow, and Bette Midler.
Dick Van Dyke – Julie Andrews, Bryan Cranston, Steve Martin, Lin-Manual Miranda, and Chita Rivera.
KENNEDY CENTER HONORS 2021 HOST: Just Jared has reported that the 2021 host of the event is Gloria Estefan, a former honoree.