- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2008

This year’s Kennedy Center Honorees, announced Tuesday, include an Oscar winner, a Grammy winner, a Tony winner and someone who has won all three, as well as two Rock and Roll Hall of Famers.

Actor Morgan Freeman, country crooner George Jones, choreographer Twyla Tharp, actress and singer Barbra Streisand and rockers Peter Townshend and Roger Daltrey of the Who will be saluted by entertainers from around the world in a Dec. 7 performance gala at the Kennedy Center Opera House. The show, the highlight of the District’s - and perhaps the nation’s - cultural calendar, will be broadcast on CBS later that month.

The awards will be handed out the night before at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and President Bush and first lady Laura Bush, who sit with the Honorees at the gala, will receive the winners at the White House the day of the show.

The Who entered the American consciousness as part of the 1960s British Invasion, but the band has gained legions of new fans the past two years while touring in support of “Endless Wire,” its first full album of new material in 24 years. Guitarist and primary songwriter Mr. Townshend, 63, and frontman Mr. Daltrey, 64, are the only surviving members of the original lineup; galvanic drummer Keith Moon died in 1978, and bassist John Entwistle died in 2002.

At their height, the Who musicians were known as much for their onstage antics as their groundbreaking music - Mr. Townshend, playing his instrument with a trademark windmill motion, often destroyed it at the end of the evening. “Tommy,” a double album released in 1969, was the first rock opera; it was made into a 1975 film in which Mr. Daltrey starred as the troubled title character.

“As a teenager growing up in the austerity of postwar England, it was the music I heard emanating from America that gave me a dream to hang my life on. That dream was to make music and make it there,” Mr. Daltrey said in a statement on receiving the honor.

Miss Streisand, 66, can add a Kennedy Center Honor to a long list of accolades she already has received: The American icon is one of the few performers to have been awarded an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony.

The Brooklyn-born chanteuse started singing in nightclubs when she was a teenager, going on to sell 148 million albums worldwide. She made her film debut in 1968’s “Funny Girl,” reprising the role she had originated on Broadway and winning the Academy Award for best actress. She won her second Oscar for writing “Evergreen” from 1976’s “A Star Is Born.”

She also directed, wrote, produced and starred in two films, 1983’s “Yentl” and 1991’s “The Prince of Tides.”

Mr. Freeman, 71, also started performing at a young age - he was 8 when he had the lead role in a school play - but the Memphis, Tenn.-born actor turned down a drama scholarship after high school to work as a mechanic in the Air Force. He eventually made his way to Los Angeles and New York, where he made his Broadway debut in 1968 in an all-black version of “Hello, Dolly!”

The actor with one of the best-known voices in the business has appeared in some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, including “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and this year’s “The Dark Knight” as well as critically acclaimed fare including “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Se7en.” He won a supporting-actor Oscar for 2004’s “Million Dollar Baby.”

“I am grateful for this recognition from a great institution, especially one which honors the memory of President Kennedy,” he said in a statement.

The Texas-born Mr. Jones, 76, has been recording music for 55 years. It’s quite an accomplishment, especially given that the singer earned the nickname “No-Show Jones” when his alcohol abuse led him to miss gig after gig. He has kicked his old habits and has been clean for years, he says. He has had 14 No. 1 country hits, including three duets with his former wife, Tammy Wynette. He earned his first Grammy for 1980’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

Mr. Jones said in a statement, “I´m just a singer of sad country songs, and I never in my life thought something like this would happen to me.”

Miss Tharp, 67, began her career in New York dancing for Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. She danced with Paul Taylor’s company before striking out on her own in 1965, just two years after graduating from Barnard College. Besides choreographing for her own and other companies, including New York City Ballet and the Royal Ballet, she also has done work for film, including three programs with director Milos Forman: “Hair,” “Ragtime” and “Amadeus.” She makes use of genres from classical to jazz to pop in her work and won a Tony in 2003 for the Billy Joel dance musical “Movin’ Out.”

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