Billy Joel, Shirley MacLaine, three others recognized at Kennedy Center Honors

CNN/ Newswire | 12/9/2013, 8:59 a.m.
Washington mixed with the world of arts Sunday night at the 36th annual Kennedy Center Honors, which recognizes artists from ...
Billy Joel

By Ashley Killough


Washington mixed with the world of arts Sunday night at the 36th annual Kennedy Center Honors, which recognizes artists from the stage, screen and radio.

President Barack Obama hosted the five honorees at the White House for a reception before attending the event at the Kennedy Center, which is set to air December 29 on CBS.

The honorees were opera singer Martina Arroyo, actress Shirley MacLaine and musicians Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana and Billy Joel.

Here's a look at the five artists:

Billy Joel

Joel, 64, is a six-time Grammy Award nominee and 23-time nominee who has sold more than 150 million albums.

The celebrated piano player, singer and songwriter, known for his deep ties to New York, recently signed a deal to perform at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan once a month, starting in January.

He's held 46 shows at the venue, according to James L. Dolan, executive chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company.

Joel got started in his career playing at a piano bar during high school to bring home some money for his family. Because he missed so much class for work, he was unable to graduate, so he decided to focus on his music career.

"I told them, 'To hell with it. If I'm not going to Columbia University, I'm going to Columbia Records, and you don't need a high school diploma over there,' " Joel said, according to biographical information on the Kennedy Center Honors website.

The President recognized a number of Joel's song at the White House, including "New York State of Mind" and "Goodnight Saigon."

"With lyrics that speak of love and class and failure and success, angry young men and the joy of becoming a father, he's become one of the most successful musicians in history," Obama said.

Speaking on the red carpet before the awards ceremony, Joel said he was flattered to receive the honor.

"This is an award from the nation, this is from America. It's kinda official. It's great to be in the nation's capital," he said.

Shirley MacLaine

Shirley MacLaine

Shirley MacLaine

The Kennedy Center Honors adds one more big accomplishment for MacLaine, 79, who's won a best actress Oscar for her role in "Terms of Endearment" (1983) and four best actress nominations. Her resume also includes four best actress Golden Globes -- two for comedies and two for dramas.

MacLaine got her start in the arts in Richmond, Virginia, with dance and landed her first role on Broadway at 20 in "The Pajama Game."

While her film debut came in 1955 for "The Trouble With Harry," directed by Alfred Hitchcock, her more recent repertoire includes a role on the popular TV series "Downton Abbey" and in the upcoming film "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," with Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig.

She's also a prolific writer, with 14 best-selling books that focus on her life, including her belief in reincarnation.

"I thought it was terrific. I thought it was about time. I thought it was a tribute what I've done, but also it's a welcome home," she said on the red carpet, describing her first reaction to learning she was designated the honor.