Earth, Wind & Fire and Linda Ronstadt have been named 2019 Kennedy Center Honors recipients, the organization announced on Thursday. Sally Field, children’s TV program Sesame Street and San Francisco Symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas are also among those who will receive the award for lifetime achievement in the arts.
“The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates icons, who, through their artistry, have left an indelible stamp on our collective cultural consciousness,” Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein said in a statement. “Earth, Wind & Fire’s hooks and grooves are the foundation of a seminal style that continues to shape our musical landscape.
“Sally Field has brought us unforgettable characters, both joyous and poignant, for more than five decades,” he continued. “Linda Ronstadt is the defining voice of a generation, spanning genres, languages and continents; Sesame Street continues to revolutionize how children and adults learn about the world; and Michael Tilson Thomas goes far beyond keeping score: he has shaped American music and musical institutions for the 21st century.”
Its nod to Sesame Street marks the first time a television show will receive the award and Earth, Wind & Fire are the first R&B group and only fourth music group overall to receive a Kennedy Center Honor, as Billboard points out. The group’s co-founder and vocalist Maurice White died in 2016. His brother and longtime bassist Verdine White reflected on the group’s resonance in relation to the award while speaking with the Associated Press. “We’re part of the culture. We’re part of people’s lives,” he said. “The music makes people happy. When you come to a show you leave happier than when you came.”
The awards will be presented on December 7th followed by a gala on December 8th. CBS will broadcast the event on December 15th.