The 2021 Kennedy Center Honors celebrated Joni Mitchell, Bette Midler, Berry Gordy and Lorne Michaels with Lifetime Achievement awards on Sunday night (05.12.21).
The prestigious bash returned as an in-person event for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic and was attended by the President of the United States for the first time since 2016, with President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden in attendance at the star-studded gala.
In tribute to music legend Joni, 78, musicians Ellie Goulding, Norah Jones, Brandi Carlile, and Brittany Howard gave surprise performances of her most-loved songs.
As for Bette, 76, her Hollywood peers Goldie Hawn and Barbara Hershey paid tribute to the 'Hocus Pocus' star, while 'Pose' and Broadway star Billy Porter took to the stage for a show-stopping rendition of the icon's hit single 'The Wind Beneath My Wings' from the soundtrack to the 1988 film 'Beaches'.
Motown legend Berry, 92, was honoured by the likes of Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson in recognition of the way he helped launch their careers.
Operatic superstar Justino Diaz, 81, was also celebrated with a performance from the opera 'Carmen'.
Away from music, 'Saturday Night Live' legend Lorne -who created and produces the iconic late-night comedy sketch show - was saluted by comics Jimmy Fallon, Amy Poehler, and cast members Colin Jost, Michael Che and Pete Davidson.
The president had hosted a reception for the honourees at the White House prior to the gala, which is set to air on CBS on December 22.
Speaking from the East Room, he told the select guests: “We welcome everyone back.
“Our nation is stronger, more dynamic and more vibrant because of you."
He said of the honourees: “I don’t think you fully appreciate what you do for so many people.”
Biden joked about Lorne, whose show regularly pokes fun at presidents: “Finally, it’s my turn to say something about him."
The world leader admitted: “You make me laugh at myself a lot."
While he told Bette: “People will never forget how you make them feel. That’s your gift, it’s incredible.”
Speaking to Joni, he said: "Your words and melodies touch the deepest parts of our soul."
Stevie Wonder headlined the four-hour event.