The Oscars may be entertainment’s most glamorous night, but no awards show is more entertaining than the Kennedy Center Honors. Taped earlier this month, they finally air tonight at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.This year’s honorees include Meryl Streep, Neil Diamond, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins, and singer and Tony winner Barbara Cook. If finding out how Anne Hathaway ends up in a split while honoring her Devil Wears Prada costar Streep (who is also feted by Robert De Niro, Mike Nichols, Kevin Kline, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, and Tracey Ullman) isn’t enough of a reason to tune in, below are a few others. (Update: Watch the Meryl Streep tribute here and read our recap.)
• Among those honoring Diamond, whose tribute is introduced by John Lithgow: Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles (“Hello Again”), Smokey Robinson (“Sweet Caroline”), Lionel Richie (“I Am… I Said”), Raphael Saadiq (a medley of “You Got Me,” “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” and “Cherry, Cherry”), and, of course, Caroline Kennedy.
• Cook’s tribute is introduced by Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick and includes a medley with performances by Tony winners Patti LuPone (“Loving You” and “Come Rain or Come Shine”), Sutton Foster (“Everybody Says Don’t”), Audra McDonald (“Till There Was You”), and Glenn Close (“Losing My Mind”), as well as Tony nominees Rebecca Luker and Kelli O’Hara (“Will I Ever Tell You” and “Will He Like Me”), young Broadway star Laura Osnes (“This Is All Very New to Me”), and opera soprano Anna Christy (“Glitter and Be Gay”).
• Stephen Colbert introduces the tribute to Yo-Yo Ma, entitled “Symphony for the Eagle,” with help from Elmo. We’ll let CBS describe the amazingness that follows:
The first movement was a classical quintet performing Schumann’s “Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44: I Allegro,” with musicians Emanuel Ax (piano), Jaime Laredo (violin), Pamela Frank (violin), Lynn Chang (violin), and Sharon Robinson (cello). The second movement was an Appalachia/Bluegrass piece called “Atta Boy” with musicians Edgar Meyer (leader/bass), Stuart Duncan (fiddle) and Chris Thile (mandolin). The third movement was world music entitled “Turceasca,” performed by The Silk Road Ensemble. The final movement involved all the performers, with Academy Award, Golden Globe, and multiple Grammy Award-winning composer John Williams, a 2004 Kennedy Center Honoree, conducting. The musicians were then joined by multiple Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and guitarist James Taylor, and the Joyce Garrett Youth Choir, for a moving finale of “Here Comes the Sun,” which brought the evening to its stirring conclusion.
• Rollins’ tribute is introduced by Bill Cosby, who shares a story about how he once disappointed a gardener at a hotel in the south of France, who kissed him and mistakenly thought he was Rollins. CBS describes the musical tribute:
Then, he introduced a musical tribute to Rollins that began with “Just in Time,” performed by the Sonny Rollins All-Star Trio: jazz drummer Billy Drummond, Grammy Award-winning jazz saxophonist Joe Lovano, and jazz bassist Christian McBride. They were joined by Ravi Coltrane, jazz saxophonist and son of famed jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane. This was followed by “In a Sentimental Mood,” performed by Academy Award and multiple Grammy Award-winning pianist, bandleader, and composer Herbie Hancock, Grammy Award-winning jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove, and jazz guitarist Jim Hall. Up next were the Kennedy Center Honors Jazz Masters: jazz saxophonists Benny Golson and Jimmy Heath, with jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette, performing “Sonnymoon for Two.” In closing, the musicians joined together to perform “St. Thomas,” bringing the tribute to its rousing conclusion.
No wonder Streep has said her takeaway from the evening was that she wishes she were a musician. Leave it to her to sum up why we love the Kennedy Center Honors, perfectly: