Dionne Warwick, Billy Crystal, and Queen Latifah at the Kennedy Center Honors Gala

WASHINGTON, Dec 3 (Reuters) – Washington celebrated singer Dionne Warwick, comedian Billy Crystal, Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb, rapper and actress Queen Latifah and opera star Renee Fleming on Sunday at the Kennedy Center Honors, America’s highest honor for achievement in human rights. Arts.

President Joe Biden praised the work of the five artists during a reception at the White House before the show.

“The performing arts are more than sound and spectacle. They reflect who we are as Americans and as human beings,” he said.

The show began with a tribute to Warwick, 82, a pop star from the 1960s who has sold more than 100 million records and is known for such hits as “I’ll Never Like This Way Again” and “That’s What Friends Are For,” a song she recorded in 1985. With Gladys Knight, Elton John and Stevie Wonder to raise awareness about AIDS.

Music producer Clive Davis said: “There is simply no song that Dionne Warwick couldn’t sing,” adding that she “has inspired musicians all over the world.” Singer Cynthia Erivo performed a sultry version of Warwick’s song “Alfie.”

Crystal, 75, is best known for her roles in films such as “When Harry Met Sally,” “City Slickers” and “Analyze This.” Actors Meg Ryan and Robert De Niro appeared on stage to honor their friend.

De Niro said sarcastically: “You are only 75 years old. This means that you are only six years away from being the ideal age to be elected president.” Biden, 81, is running for re-election. The crowd roared.

Crystal is a Tony and Emmy Award-winning actor and writer, and has hosted the Academy Awards nine times. Whoopi Goldberg, who also praised Crystal, said he should win an honorary Oscar for his service as the show’s longtime host.

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Next came Queen Latifah (53 years old), a musician and actress known for films including “Chicago” and “Bringing Down the House,” who won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1994.

“I feel very lucky. I feel very proud,” she told reporters. Actress Kerry Washington said her friend was one of the “best rappers ever.”

Singers Tituss Burgess, Christine Baranski and Susan Graham performed “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the Broadway show “Carousel” in honor of Fleming, 64, the famous soprano who has performed in opera houses around the world and won five Grammy Awards. .

“It’s weird” to be honored, Fleming said. “It’s all joy.” Movie star Sigourney Weaver appeared and praised Fleming’s acting.

Opera singer Jay Nye Bridges said before the performance that Fleming had helped make opera more popular.

“Renée Fleming made opera more accessible,” she told reporters. “It broke through and really paved the way for generations like me.”

The show concluded with a celebration of Gibb, 77, a singer and songwriter who performed with his brothers Robin and Maurice in the Bee Gees, which has sold more than 220 million records. He has won nine Grammy Awards, and as part of a trio, he is known for songs like “Stayin’ Alive” and “How Deep Is Your Love.”

He told reporters before the show that he felt the presence of his two brothers who died.

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“It’s very emotional,” he said. “What we all did together – when we were good, when we were good – that was something to be proud of.”

Country music band Little Big Town performed Jeep’s song “Lonely Days,” singer Michael Bublé sang “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” and Broadway star Ben Platt performed “Nights on Broadway.”

The show, which was recorded, will be broadcast on US television network CBS on December 27.

Reporting by Geoff Mason and Jasper Ward. Edited by Gerry Doyle

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Jeff Mason is Reuters’ White House correspondent. He has covered the presidencies of Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden and the presidential campaigns of Biden, Trump, Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. He served as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association from 2016-2017, and led the press corps in defending press freedom in the early days of the Trump administration. His work and that of the WHCA have been recognized with the “Freedom of Expression Award” presented by Deutsche Welle. Jeff has asked pointed questions of domestic and foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean President Kim Jong Un. He is a recipient of the WHCA’s “Excellence in Coverage of Presidential News Under Deadline Pressure” award, and is a co-winner of the Business Journalists Association’s “Breaking News” award. Jeff began his career in Frankfurt, Germany as a business reporter before being hired. Traveling to Brussels, Belgium, where he covered the European Union, Jeff appears regularly on television and radio, teaches political journalism at Georgetown University, and is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a former Fulbright scholar.

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