Kennedy Center Honors: What I Liked

Billy Joel joined Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, opera star Martina Arroyo and actress Shirley MacLaine in receiving the Kennedy Center Honors earlier this month: the proceedings were broadcast last night. Tony Bennett opened the tribute to Joel’s long career and his songs written so often about ordinary people. Rufus Wainright sang “New York State of Mind” and led the audience in a finale of Joel’s original hit, “Piano Man.” As usual, the reaction shots in the audience were priceless: Obama singing along in Spanish to Santana songs, Jessye Norman grooving to Herbie Hancock riffs (and Snoop Dogg rapping to Hancock riffs). The most show-bizzy segment was devoted to MacLaine: only fitting, as she got her first big break in “The Pajama Game.” As usual, I preferred the tribute to the least known honoree, in this cast Arroyo, because it taught me things I didn’t know. (P.S.: Did Obama really have to chew gum throughout much of the show? Tacky.)

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