WASHINGTON — President Joseph R. Biden celebrated artists including Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell, and Lorne Michaels on Sunday at the Kennedy Center Honors, bringing back presidential participation in the annual ceremony skipped by Republican Donald Trump.
Singer Justino Díaz and Motown founder Berry Gordy round out the group of artists selected by the Kennedy Center for top honors this year at a show that had been upended by politics and the restrictions of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Mr. Biden, a Democrat who took over from Mr. Trump in January, held a black-tie ceremony for the five honorees earlier in the evening, the sort of glamorous celebration that has become rare at a White House that has eschewed large gatherings in the COVID-19 era. Mr. Trump did not hold such a reception during his four years in office and did not attend the show at the Kennedy Center itself.
Mr. Biden, his wife, Jill, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, all attended the ceremony.
The awards recognize a lifetime of achievement in the performing arts.
Ms. Midler, a singer and actress, has received Grammy, Emmy, Tony and Golden Globe awards for a career spanning decades, with album sales exceeding 30 million around the world.
Singer-songwriter Ms. Mitchell, a native Canadian known for songs such as “Both Sides, Now” and “Big Yellow Taxi,” is a multi-Grammy recipient and an inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The show opened up honoring her with performances by Norah Jones and Brandi Carlile.
Mr. Michaels, also a native of Canada, is the creator and executive producer of the long-running NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live.
“If you can’t laugh at yourself, we’re in real trouble, and you make me laugh at myself a lot,” Mr. Biden said during his remarks at the White House, referring to Mr. Michaels, noting the show has used seven comics to play him over the years.
Mr. Diaz, a bass-baritone opera singer from Puerto Rico, has performed with opera companies around the world.
Mr. Gordy, a songwriter and record producer from Detroit, founded the Motown record label that became synonymous with a jazz- and blues-influenced musical sound popularized by Black artists including Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Lionel Richie, whose careers he helped shape. Gordy is also a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee. — Reuters