on tv: the 2009 kennedy center honors

kennedy center honors 2009. standing: robert deniro, bruce springsteen, mel brooks. seated: grace bumbry, dave brubeck. photo by ron sachs/getty.

kennedy center honors 2009. standing: robert deniro, bruce springsteen and mel brooks. seated: grace bumbry and dave brubeck. photo by ron sachs/getty.

One of the few non-sports related TV highlights during the dead week between Christmas and New Year’s is the annual Kennedy Center Honors. Taped at a ceremony held during the first week of December with the President of the United States presiding, the Honors are awarded for lifetime achievement in the performing arts.

In doing so, there is at least one exemplary tribute given to the honorees that makes the broadcast worth watching. Last year’s highlight, Bettye LaVette’s torch-like revision of The Who’s Love Reign O’er Me is going to be tough to beat. But the extraordinary caliber of this year’s honorees should trigger some fine follow-ups.

This year’s Kennedy Center Honors airs at 9 tonight on CBS. Piggyback it to the ESPN2 broadcast of the 7 p.m. UK/Hartford game and you have a pretty fine evening of home entertainment at hand. Just the thing for a winter night.

Here the artists being celebrated at tonight’s broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors.

+ Bruce Springsteen, 60 – “The Boss.” Though he is the youngest of the honorees, Springsteen’s storied rock and roll career is nearly 38 years old. Look for tributes by Jon Stewart, Ron Kovic, Ben Harper, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Melissa Etheridge, Eddie Vedder and Sting.

+ Robert DeNiro, 66 – The Oscar winning film actor famous for Raging Bull, The Dear Hunter, Taxi Driver and scores of uncompromisingly dramatic movies. Look for tributes by Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton and Sharon Stone.

+ Grace Bumbry, 72 – The landmark mezzo-soprano who broke down barriers for African-American vocalists in the world of opera. Ironically, Bumbry performed at the very first Kennedy Center Honors ceremony as part of a tribute to the legendary soprano Marian Anderson. Look for tributes by Aretha Franklin, Simon Estes and Angela Gheorghiu.

+ Mel Brooks, 83 – The veteran comic who created the sidesplitting films and musicals The Producers, Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. Look for tributes by Carl Reiner, Jack Black, Frank Langella, Matthew Broderick, Gary Beach and Martin Short.

+ Dave Brubeck, 89 – The jazz pianist who is also celebrating the 50th anniversary of his groundbreaking Time Out album. Look for tributes by Herbie Hancock, a quintet featuring Bill Charlap, Miguel Zenon, Jon Faddis, Christian McBride and Bill Stewart, the U.S. Army Field Band’s Jazz Ambassadors and sons Darius, Chris, Matthew and Dan Brubeck.

This year’s Kennedy Center Honors ceremony was held in Washington on Dec. 6 – Dave Brubeck’s 89th birthday.

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