The Kennedy Center Announces Honorees For 2021 Tribute Broadcast On June 6

Debbie Allen, Joan Baez, Garth Brooks, Midori, and Dick Van Dyke will be celebrated for a lifetime of artistic achievement.
Posted on Jan 13, 2021 | 11:05am
A handful of incredible artists have been chosen by The Kennedy Center as esteemed Honorees for the 43rd class and will be celebrated for their cultural contributions in a two-hour special set to air on Sunday, June 6 at 8/7c on CBS.

The 2021 Kennedy Center Honorees include multi-disciplinary artist and choreographer Debbie Allen, singer/songwriter and activist Joan Baez, country singer/songwriter Garth Brooks, violinist Midori, and actor Dick Van Dyke.

"The Kennedy Center Honors serves as a moment to celebrate the remarkable artists who have spent their lives elevating the cultural history of our nation and world," said Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein.

"Debbie Allen moves seamlessly between artistic disciplines and is a cultural ambassador for all while having a monumental impact on dancers of color everywhere; folk icon Joan Baez breathed new life into the genre and powered rock music's turn toward social and political consciousness; as one of the world's best-selling music artists, Garth Brooks heightened country music's profile like no other singer before him; with an international presence for over 35 years, violinist Midori combines graceful precision and expression for performances building connections between art and the human experience; with a charm that has made him one of the most cherished performers in show business history, Dick Van Dyke has brought us beloved film, stage, and TV characters adored by generations of fans, for more than seven decades," detailed Rubenstein.

During this unique time in history, the Center's entire Washington, DC, campus will be involved in the celebration, which will be comprised of small, in-person events—including performances, testimonials, and an Honoree medallion ceremony—and innovative virtual tributes held during the week of May 17 through May 22.

Additional in-person events will be dependent on how COVID-19 safety protocols evolve in the coming months and the current slate of events is subject to change, as well.

"This past year has taught us many things, including the need to be flexible and adaptable," stated Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. "They say necessity is the mother of all invention. The unusual circumstances inspired and opened up new ways for us to present a deeper experience, and hopefully understanding, of the art and lifetime work of our Honorees. 2020 has also shined a bright light on the impact of how art and culture speak to our collective human experience. It can meet us at any moment and sustain us during the most challenging days. Each of the 43rd Kennedy Center Honorees and their work continues to speak to American culture and our national fortitude. We are thrilled to be able to fete these cultural icons in a time where the world and the nation need the arts more than ever."


Debbie Allen (Multi-Disciplinary Artist, Choreographer, and Actress)
Debbie Allen, a BFA graduate of Howard University in Theater and Classical Greek Studies, holds four honorary doctorate degrees, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and is an award-winning producer, director, writer, actor, and choreographer who has choreographed the Academy Awards® a record 10 times. She has directed and choreographed for legendary artists such as Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Gwen Verdon, Carmen de Lavallade, Diane Carroll, Lena Horne, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dolly Parton, and Savion Glover.

Allen received the Golden Globe for her role as Lydia Grant in the 1980s hit series Fame, the Drama Desk Award for her portrayal of Anita in West Side Story, and is a three-time Emmy Award® winner in Choreography for Fame and The Motown 25th. Awarded 10 Image Awards as director, actress, choreographer, and producer for Fame, A Different World, Motown 25th, The Academy Awards, The Debbie Allen Special, and Amistad, she has also directed the best that network TV offers, including Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, Jane The Virgin, Empire, and Insecure. She currently serves as Executive Producing Director of Grey’s Anatomy, where she recurs as Dr. Catherine Fox. Her recent Shondaland-produced Documentary, Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker on Netflix, tells a true story of what she does to enlighten, inspire, and engage young people around the world through dance and theater arts. She is the daughter of poet Vivian Ayers and Dr. Andrew Allen, sister to Phylicia Rashad, Andrew “Tex” Allen and Hugh Allen, wife to NBA All-Star Norman Nixon, mother of Vivian and Thump, and grandmother of Shiloh and Aviah.

Recent Kennedy Center history: Debbie Allen acted as emcee of the 10th Anniversary of National Dance Day, which was part of the Center’s REACH Opening Festival in September of 2019. Additionally, Allen’s multidisciplinary production Freeze Frame…Stop the Madness received its East Coast premiere at the Center in 2016. She has a long and robust history as Artist-in-Residence with the Center creating more than eight productions for young audiences. She has also been a member of the Artists Committee for Kennedy Center Honors for a number of years.

Joan Baez (Singer-Songwriter and Activist)
Shortly after her Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in April 2017, Joan Baez announced that in 2018 she would begin her last formal tour. As the tour began, Baez released her first new studio album in a decade, Whistle Down The Wind. Produced by Joe Henry, the Grammy®–nominated album gathered songs by some of Baez’s favorite writers, from Tom Waits to Mary Chapin Carpenter.

The 2000s honored Baez with many career milestones including the PBS American Masters series premiere of her life story, Joan Baez: How Sweet The Sound (2009). Her self-titled 1960 debut album was honored by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences in 2011, which inducted it into the Grammy® Hall Of Fame; and by the Library of Congress in 2015, which selected it to be preserved in the National Recording Registry. That same year, Amnesty International bestowed its highest honor on Baez, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, in recognition of her exceptional leadership in the fight for human rights.

Record-breaking years of touring included her first tours in three decades in both Australia (2013) and South America (2014).

Baez has long been a musical force of nature of incalculable influence. Starting in the turbulent 1960s, she marched on the front line of the civil rights movement with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., shined a spotlight on the Free Speech Movement, took to the fields with Cesar Chavez, and organized resistance to the Vietnam War. Over the decades, she inspired Vaclav Havel in his fight for a Czech Republic, saluted the Dixie Chicks for their courage to protest the Iraq war, and stood with old friend Nelson Mandela in London’s Hyde Park as the world celebrated his 90th birthday. Baez’s earliest albums fed a host of traditional ballads into the rock vernacular before she unselfconsciously introduced Bob Dylan to the world in 1963. Thus began a tradition of mutual mentoring of songwriters that continued throughout the career of Joan Baez, whose lifetime of recordings and memorable concert performances will reverberate long into the future.

Recent Kennedy Center history: Joan Baez was among the guest cast paying tribute to Kennedy Center Honoree Pete Seeger in 1994. Additionally, the full-length film Banjoman, which she was featured in, premiered at the Center in 1975.

Garth Brooks (Country Singer-Songwriter)
Garth Brooks is the seven-time CMA Entertainer of the Year, a first for any artist. He is also the first and only artist in history to receive nine Diamond Awards for the now nine albums certified by the RIAA at over 10 million album sales each. He remains the #1-selling solo artist in U.S. history, certified by the RIAA with 157 million album sales. In March 2020, Garth received the esteemed Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. He has received every accolade the recording industry can bestow on an artist.

In November, just after receiving the Billboard Music Icon Award, Brooks released two new albums, his 12th studio album, FUN and live album Triple Live Deluxe.

In November of 2019, A&E aired Garth Brooks: The Road I’m On. Part of their esteemed ‘Biography’ franchise, the documentary offered an intimate look at Brooks’ life as a musician and father over his entire career.

Last January, Billboard announced that Garth Brooks was the first artist to make it on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in the 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s, and now 20s. He debuted “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” in 1989. With “Dive Bar,” a duet he sang with Blake Shelton, he made his appearance on the list in 2020. The single inspired a DIVE BAR tour around the country which will continue its run of stops through 2022.

Brooks has been inducted into the International Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame, and most recently, the Musicians Hall of Fame.

In March 2019, he launched The Stadium Tour, which has broken stadium attendance records at every stop on the tour so far. Pollstar announced at the end of 2019 that The Garth Brooks Stadium Tour was the best-selling country music tour of 2019. In 2017, he finished the Garth Brooks World Tour with Trisha Yearwood. The tour sold over 6.3 million tickets, making it the biggest North American tour in history and the biggest American tour in the world.

Recent Kennedy Center history: Garth Brooks was among the guest cast paying tribute to previous Kennedy Center Honorees James Taylor (2016), Billy Joel (2013), and Loretta Lynn (2003) along with previous Mark Twain Prize recipient Jay Leno (2014).

Midori (Violinist)
Midori is a visionary artist, activist and educator who explores and builds connections between music and the human experience and breaks with traditional boundaries which makes her one of the most outstanding violinists of our time.

As a leading concert violinist for over 35 years, Midori regularly transfixes audiences around the world, bringing together graceful precision and intimate expression. She has performed with, among others, the London, Chicago, and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras, the Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. She has collaborated with such outstanding musicians as Claudio Abbado, Emanuel Ax, Leonard Bernstein, Jonathan Biss, Constantinos Carydis, Christoph Eschenbach, Daniel Harding, Paavo Järvi, Mariss Jansons, Yo-Yo Ma, Susanna Mälkki, Joana Mallwitz, Antonello Manacorda, Zubin Mehta, Donald Runnicles, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Omer Meir Wellber.

Midori’s latest recording with the Festival Strings Lucerne of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and two Romances was released in October 2020 by Warner Classics. Her diverse discography by Sony Classical, Ondine and Onyx includes recordings of Bloch, Janáček, and Shostakovich and a Grammy Award®–winning recording of Hindemith’s Violin Concerto with Christoph Eschenbach conducting the NDR Symphony Orchestra as well as Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin filmed at Köthen Castle, which was recorded also for DVD (Accentus).

Midori is deeply committed to furthering humanitarian and educational goals. She has founded and manages several non-profit organizations, including Midori & Friends, which provides music programs for New York City youth and communities, and MUSIC SHARING, a Japan-based foundation that brings both western classical and Japanese music traditions into young lives by presenting programs in schools, institutions, and hospitals. In recognition of such commitments, she serves as a United Nations Messenger of Peace.

Midori was born in Osaka in 1971 and began her violin studies with her mother, Setsu Goto at an early age. In 1982, conductor Zubin Mehta invited the then 11-year-old Midori to perform with the New York Philharmonic in the orchestra’s annual New Year’s Eve concert, where the foundation was laid for her following career.

Midori plays the 1734 Guarnerius del Gesù ‘ex-Huberman’. She uses four bows—two by Dominique Peccatte, one by François Peccatte, and one by Paul Siefried.

Recent Kennedy Center history: Midori, performing with Picnchas Zuckerman, was among the guest cast paying tribute to previous Kennedy Center Honoree Nathan Milstein (1987). She has previously been presented as part of the Fortas Chamber Music seasons (2008, 2011, 2012), and was a recipient of the Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts Gold Medal (2010). She was among the guest artists participating in the Kennedy Center International Festival JAPAN! Culture + hyperculture in 2008. Additionally, she has a long history as a guest soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra (most recently in 2014 with Christoph Eschenbach conducting).

Dick Van Dyke (Actor)
In an unparalleled career that has spanned more than seven decades and earned him five Emmys, a Tony®, a Grammy®, a BAFTA, the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award, induction into the Television Hall of Fame, recognition as a “Disney Legend,” a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the adoration of generations of fans, Dick Van Dyke has remained one of the most popular and beloved performers in show business history. In 1960, he starred in the Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie, earning a Tony Award®. He returned to the stage in the 1970s and 80s with national tours of The Music Man and Damn Yankees.

In 1961, his superstar status was solidified with the debut of The Dick Van Dyke Show on CBS. Winning three Emmys® for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy over the course of its six-season run, the series’ 158 episodes have since aired every single day somewhere in the world. In 1991, his character, Dr. Mark Sloan, in TV’s Jake And The Fatman, was so popular that a spin-off series, Diagnosis: Murder, was created and ran from 1993 to 2001.

On the big screen, he starred in Bye Bye Birdie and Mary Poppins (1964), one of the most beloved films of all time. Other films include Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), The Comic (1969), Dick Tracy (1990), the Night At The Museum films, the HBO documentary If You’re Not In The Obit, Eat Breakfast (2017), and Mary Poppins Returns (2018).

Van Dyke is also the author of two New York Times bestselling books, My Lucky Life In And Out Of Show Business and Keep Moving: And Other Tips And Truths About Aging. A song and dance man at heart, he has been harmonizing with his acapella quartet The Vantastix for the past 20 years. In 2018, Van Dyke released a full-length jazz album, Step (Back) In Time.

Recent Kennedy Center history: Dick Van Dyke was among the guest cast paying tribute to previous Mark Twain Prize recipient Carl Reiner (2000).

Watch the 43rd Annual Kennedy Center Honors on Sunday, June 6 at 8/7c on CBS.