When the Kennedy Center Honors aired last night on CBS, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members the Eagles were supposed to be in the balcony, ribbons around their neck, listening to a variety of artists sing their praises. But founding member Glenn Frey’s intestinal surgery required the California country-rock pioneers to defer their honor until next year. Nonetheless, the producers of the show, taped December 6th, found a way to weave in a little Eagles music: enlisting Miranda Lambert to sing “Desperado.”
Lambert turned in a heartfelt, impassioned performance of the title track of the group’s 1973 album, written by Frey and Don Henley and, that same year, covered by another big-voiced chanteuse, Linda Ronstadt. Lambert’s version is more akin to the Eagles’ though, with the singer elegantly reining in her vocal instead of aiming for the sky. Even on the Kenney Center stage, “Desperado” feels intimate and emotional.
This year’s Kennedy Center Honors class included Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas, actresses Cicely Tyson and Rita Moreno, classical conductor Seiji Ozawa and singer-songwriter Carole King, who was saluted by Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul turned in a stunning performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” co-written by King, eliciting a standing ovation from President Obama and the crowd. The Eagles are set to appear at next year’s ceremony.