Joni Mitchell, Lorne Michaels Receive Kennedy Center Honors

They are the first Canadians to receive the annual cultural award

Photos: Kennedy Center

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Jul 22, 2021

Joni Mitchell and Lorne Michaels have become the first Canadians to receive Kennedy Center Honors, an annual award celebrating honourees' lifetime of contributions to American culture.

The Fort Macleod, AB-born Mitchell and the Toronto-born Michaels are two of five honourees announced by the Kennedy Center on Wednesday (July 21). The 2021 class also includes Motown founder, songwriter and producer Berry Gordy; singer and actress Bette Midler; and operatic bass-baritone Justino Díaz.

"Lorne Michaels created the most enduring 'must-see television' with Saturday Night Live, a show that is both mirror and muse for life in America," Kennedy Center chairman David M. Rubenstein said in a press release. "Songstress Joni Mitchell, blends raw, deeply personal lyrics with her stunningly ethereal voice in 19 albums, becoming one of the most influential singer-songwriters and cultural figures in 20th century popular music."

Mitchell shared in a statement, "I'm grateful to the Kennedy Center for bestowing this honour on my work and I look forward to being a part of this prestigious celebration of the arts. I wish my mother and father were alive to see this. It's a long way from Saskatoon."

In a statement of his own, Michaels wrote, "The Kennedy Center's commitment to the performing arts has always been an important force in American culture. Being acknowledged here and included in this company is an honour in the truest sense. I am deeply grateful."

Mitchell, Michaels, Gordy, Middler and Díaz will be honoured at a December 5 event airing on CBS and available to stream live and on-demand on Paramount+.

Mitchell's seminal 1971 album Blue turns 50 this year. She recently treated the LP to a remastered reissue, as well as shared demos and outtakes from sessions last month.

Michaels, meanwhile, is set to executive produce a forthcoming Kids in the Hall reboot.

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