The Eagles, Al PacinoJames TaylorMavis Staples and Martha Argerich were all honored as the Kennedy Center Class of 2016.


It was a bittersweet ceremony for classic rock band The Eagles, as they lost one of their members, Glenn Frey, in January of this year. “For our fans, 2016 didn’t have a harder beginning or a more appropriate ending,” said manager Irving Azoff. Remaining members Don HenleyTimothy B. Schmit, and Joe Walsh were all present to receive their medallions, alongside Frey’s widow, Cindy Frey.

Ringo Starr introduced the band, and was followed by renditions of the band’s biggest hits by Bob Seger, the Kings of Leon, Vince Gill and Juanes.

Bill Clinton introduced his “friend of many years” James Taylor, singer-songwriter famed for such hits as “Carolina In My Mind” and “Country Road.” Then a medley of his songs was performed by Darius RuckerSheryl Crow, and Garth Brooks.


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Al Pacino was next on the docket, who was honored for his lasting portrayals in such films as SerpicoThe Godfather, and Scent of a Woman, the last of which earned him an Oscar for Best Actor. Sean Penn introduced the actor, and then a recreation of his famous tango scene was put on by his co-stars Gabrielle Anwar and Chris O’Donnell.

Mavis Staples, who started out as a church singer, and became the voice of the Civil Rights movement when her family befriended Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Her hits like “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself” earned her the nickname “goddess of soul.” Staples was from the South Side of Chicago, actor Don Cheadle pointed out, who spoke on her importance to civil rights and Chicago.

“Oh my God, I feel like I would do a couple of cartwheels,” said the 77-year-old singer in an interview. “I am so honored.” Staples is still active, and plays a role in current politics. When asked what’s ahead, her collaborator Jeff Tweedy replied, “Lots of protests. Mavis’ music means more than ever.”

Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich was the last to be honored. She was a child prodigy who rose to fame with her stunning performances of 19th and 20th century artists, from Chopin to Shostakovich.

Stephen Colbert was the host of the evening for the third year in a row. Kennedy Center honorees are chosen for “lifetime contributions to U.S. culture, whether through music, dance, theater, opera, motion pictures or television.” The program will air on CBS on Dec. 27.

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