Entertainment & Arts

Billy Joel 'overwhelmed' by Kennedy Center honour

Billy Joel, Shirley MacLaine, Carlos Santana, Martina Arroyo and Herbie Hancock Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Joel, MacLaine, Santana, Arroyo and Hancock with their honorary ribbons

Piano Man singer Billy Joel has described being one of the five recipients of this year's Kennedy Center honours as "overwhelming".

"This is coming more from my country than just people who come to see me," the 64-year-old said.

He was joined by actress Shirley MacLaine and composer Herbie Hancock at the ceremony in Washington.

Rock guitarist Carlos Santana and opera singer Martina Arroyo were also saluted by President Obama at the White House.

The ceremony took place ahead of a concert at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, which saw Kathy Bates pay tribute to fellow Oscar winner MacLaine, Tony Bennett eulogise Joel and Snoop Dogg take part in an on-stage celebration of Hancock's lasting influence.

"Herbie, we love you baby," the rapper said during his segment. "Thank you for creating hip-hop."

The event also saw Don Henley and Garth Brooks perform songs from Joel's back catalogue and Harry Belafonte describe Santana as "a citizen of the world".

"Carlos, you haven't transcended race and origin. Really, who of us has?" said the veteran entertainer, who received the same honour himself in 1989.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The five were saluted at the White House ahead of Sunday's concert

"You continue to be informed by the immigrant experience on the journey to the great American dream."

MacLaine's honour means that she and her brother Warren Beatty, previously recognised in 2004, are the only siblings to both receive Kennedy Center accolades.

The Terms of Endearment and Sweet Charity actress said the award felt like a homecoming because she grew up in the Washington area.

"This is squaring the circle of living here," she told reporters at a reception held at the US State Department on Saturday.

President Obama said the following day: "The diverse group of extraordinary individuals we honour today haven't just proven themselves to be the best of the best.

"Despite all their success, all their fame, they've remained true to themselves and inspired the rest of us to do the same."

The John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has been honouring stars of the stage, screen and concert hall since 1978.

This year's gala concert will be broadcast on the CBS network in the US on 29 December.

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