April 24, 2014

Hoffman and Led Zep to be honoured by Kennedy Center

All three surviving members of Led Zeppelin will each receive their own individual award

US actor Dustin Hoffman, British rock band Led Zeppelin and talk show host David Letterman are to be honoured by Washington’s Kennedy Center.

The performance hall will give all three surviving Led Zeppelin members – John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant – individual awards.

Blues musician Buddy Guy and Russian ballerina Natalia Makarova will also be recognised at the gala in December.

President Barack Obama will also host a White House reception for them.

“With their extraordinary talent, creativity and tenacity, the seven 2012 Kennedy Center honourees have contributed significantly to the cultural life of our nation and the world,” said chairman David Rubenstein.

The award is the highest honour awarded to those that have influenced American culture through the arts, with actress Meryl Streep, singer Barbra Streisand and Oprah Winfrey among past recipients.

Led Zeppelin will be celebrated for transforming the sound of rock and roll and influencing other artists with blues-infused hits such as Stairway to Heaven.

The band issued a joint statement saying America was the first place to embrace their music. “We owe a large debt to the vitality and variety of the music of the American people,” they added.

Rubenstein called two-time Oscar-winner Hoffman, 75, “one of the most versatile and iconoclastic actors” of any generation.

The star of such films such as Rain Man, The Graduate and Tootsie recently made his directing debut with Quartet, to be screened at the London Film Festival next month.

Hoffman said he may have found a new calling with the film, which stars Dame Maggie Smith as one of a group of ageing opera singers and musicians reunited at a retirement home.

He also revealed he was last in Washington for Obama’s inauguration in 2009, when it was very cold.

“Since I froze my [behind] off watching him be inaugurated, the least he could do is to shake my hand under the circumstances,” joked Hoffman.

Late night talk show host Letterman will be recognised as “one of the most influential personalities” on US TV.

The 65-year-old said it was a wonderful honour for his family, his co-workers and himself.

“I believe recognition at this prestigious level confirms my belief that there has been a mix-up,” he said in a statement. “I am still grateful to be included.”

Chicago musician Guy, 76, has influenced many musicians over the past 50 years after pioneering the use of distortion and feedback with his electric guitar.

The “titan of the blues” said he did not know what he was doing at the time, but just wanted to turn up the sound so somebody could hear him when he was playing with the likes of BB King and Muddy Waters.

He said he was still pinching himself about his latest accolade. “I’m hoping this will give the blues a lift,” he added.

Guy has already visited the White House this year, when he managed to persuade Obama to sing a few lines of Sweet Home Chicago with Sir Mick Jagger.

Ballerina Makarova, 72, left her native Russia in 1970 and performed in Romeo and Juliet at the Kennedy Center in 1971, just days after it opened.

“What a remarkable twist of fate that I chose to leave my homeland and came to America to start a new life,” she said.

“I feel very privileged that through me, Kennedy Center honours classical ballet.”

BBC News

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