Billy Joel, Carlos Santana to Receive Kennedy Center Honors

Herbie Hancock, Shirley MacLaine and opera star Martina Arroyo also chosen

Billy Joel performs in New Orleans.
Rick Diamond/Getty Images
Billy Joel performs in New Orleans.
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Billy Joel, Carlos Santana and Herbie Hancock are among the recipients of this year's Kennedy Center Honors, along with actress Shirley MacLaine and opera star Martina Arroyo, The Associated Press reports.

This year's recipients of one of America's highest cultural and artistic honors will be saluted during a gala performance at the Kennedy Center on December 8th, though the performance will be broadcast on December 29th on CBS.

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"To be chosen for this special award essentially for doing what I love most amazes me more than anything," Joel said in a statement.

The selection of Santana and Arroyo comes after criticism last year from the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, which noted a lack of Latinos among the 180 previous Kennedy Center Honors recipients. The group's complaint prompted a revised selection process that included public nominations and a new committee of artists and officials to help choose honorees.

"I guess people understand that Santana is not just a Mexican guitar player – I bring a collective-consciousness awareness agenda with me," said Santana, who moved to San Francisco from Mexico with his family when he was six. "I grew up with the generation of Woodstock and Bob Marley, 'One Love,' and 'Imagine,' John Lennon. I am one of them, and we don't do what we do to be commercial or to be popular or to be cute. It's not entertainment or show business for us. For us, it's a calling."

Arroyo, who was raised in Harlem by her Puerto Rican father and African-American mother, also joins the ranks, following a stellar career that's seen her take the stage at the Metropolitan Opera 199 times. "We go around the world singing, and people say oh, there's an American singer," she said. "But this is your government saying, yeah, we like you, too. "There's no higher group for me than my country. That makes it extremely special."

As for Hancock, the jazz legend said he was overwhelmed "to be on that list of people whose work I've respected for so many years during my lifetime."

MacLaine, whose screen credits include Terms of Endearment, Steel Magnolias and Postcards From the Edge  along with a stint last year on Downton Abbey  said the honor feels like "a more global kind of recognition . . . not just Hollywood or New York. The people who get these awards are contributing to the world's art, and I feel privileged to be one of them."

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