Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber joined a select group of stars from the film, stage and music worlds from Hollywood to Dollywood, Motown to Broadway, at the White House to receive recognition for a lifetime of achievement.
Other stars attending included film director Steven Spielberg, singers Dolly Parton and Smokey Robinson and conductor Zubin Mehta, who become members of the 29th annual class of Kennedy Centre honourees.
At a gala at the John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts, fellow entertainers and artists celebrated the careers of the five.
During the ceremony, singer Aretha Franklin spoke about Robinson’s contributions to music.
“This beautiful, kind, kind man wrote and sang poetically and unselfconsciously about love…redefining popular music in the 60s, using the connective power of song to break down the barriers of black and white,” she said.
Mehta was described by violinist Itzhak Perlman as “what we call in Yiddish a mensch”, someone who is worthy and full of good deeds. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performed, accompanied by violinist Pinchas Zuckerman.
Lloyd Webber, 58, heard a tribute from his former wife, singer Sarah Brightman, who remains a friend and has performed in several of his prolific productions.
“At this very moment, somewhere in the world, the curtain is going up on an Andrew Lloyd Webber show,” she said.
The ceremonies attracted a combination of celebrities from politics and entertainment. Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy was there along with actors Sidney Poitier, Liam Neeson, Reese Witherspoon, Joan Collins, Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson.
Lloyd Webber composed the music for Cats, The Phantom Of The Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. He has won seven Tony Awards and three Grammy Awards.
Spielberg, 58, has won two Academy Awards for best director, for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. Among his other film are ET, Jaws, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and the Indiana Jones series.
Parton, 60, is a Grammy-winner who has also appeared in movies such as Nine To Five, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas and Steel Magnolias.
Robinson, 66, is best known for classics such as The Tracks Of My Tears, Tears Of A Clown and I Second That Emotion.
Indian-born Mehta, 70, was music director of the New York Philharmonic from 1978 to 1991 and has led the Montréal Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.