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Pres. Obama and Trump let their guards down at White House

buzzz worthy. . . By Mona Austin President Obama and Donald Trump met for the first time on Thursday to begin talks about the official...


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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Obama Awards Medal of Freedom to final class of recipients as Ellen Degeneres weeps

buzzz worthy. . .

By Mona Austin



Photos: Getty
Basketball legends Kareem Abdul Jabar and Michael Jordan were not the only giants standing tall at the White House on Tuesday, November 27.  President Barack Obama awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to the two athletes and 19 other giants in the fields of entertainment, science, technology, humanitarianism, and music.  Among those who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom: Diana Ross,Tom Hanks, Grace Hopper, Frank Gehry, Cicely Tyson, Newt Minow, Robert De Niro, Dick Garwin, Margaret Heafield Hamilton, Bruce Springsteen, Eloise Cobell, Lorne Michaels, Bill and Melinda Gates, Vin Scully, Grace Murray Hopper, Ellen Degeneres, Eduardo Padron and Robert Redford. Including this final class, Pres. Obama has recognized more people with the Medal of Freedom than any other preseident, presenting a total of 123.

After 8 years in office Obama, dubbed the "rock Star"president early on,  has become friends with many of the celebs in the room through their support of his administration.  The intimate and emotional spirit at the ceremony was a welcome reprive from the solemn tone the recent election has cast over Washington.

Speaking from the East Room of the White House, the president said this group of inductees touched his life personally.

“Everyone on this stage has touched me in a powerful personal way. These are folks who have helped make me who I am and think about my presidency.”

Many of the recipients supported programs and ideas Obama championed as president. 


Before the ceremony, one of honorees' patience was tested.

It was no laughing matter when TV Host/Comic Degeneres, 53, was stalled at the White House gate. She'd left her I.D. and the FBI forced her to wait until a higher up cleared her for entry. Once inside she led the group in an epic Mannequin Challenge.

Mr. Obama is a strong supporter of gay rights, which directly affects Degeneres who was the sole honoree representing the LGBT community this year.  The openly gay star wept as Pres. Obama placed the medal around her neck and an announcer said, "Again and again, Ellen DeGeneres has shown us that a single individual can make the world a more fun, more open, more loving place so long as we just keep swimming.”

Below are remarks President Obama made about the contribitions of some of the 2016 Medal of Honor recipients:

Robert DeNiro
Robert combines dramatic precision and, it turns out, comedic timing with his signature eye for detail.  And while the name De Niro is synonymous with "tough guy," his true gift is the sensitivity that he brings to each role. 

Margaret Heafield Hamilton
A pioneer in technology, Margaret Hamilton defined new forms of software engineering and helped launch an industry that would forever change human history.  Her software architecture led to giant leaps for humankind, writing the code that helped America set foot on the moon.  

Cicely Tyson
In her long and extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson has not only succeeded as an actor, she has shaped the whole course history.  Cicely was never the likeliest of Hollywood stars.  The daughter of immigrants from the West Indies, she was raised by a hardworking and religious mother who cleaned houses and forbade her children to attend the movies.  But once she got her education and broke into the business, Cicely made a conscious decision not just to say lines, but to speak out. 

Dick Garwin
Dick's not only an architect of the atomic age.  Ever since he was a Cleveland kid tinkering with his father's movie projectors, he's never met a problem he didn't want to solve.  Reconnaissance satellites, the MRI, GPS technology, the touchscreen all bear his fingerprints.

Bill and Melinda Gates
These two have donated more money to charitable causes than anyone, ever.  Many years ago, Melinda's mom told her an old saying: "To know that even one life has breathed easier because you lived -- that is success."  By this and just about any other measure, few in human history have been more successful than these two impatient optimists.

Diana Ross
Along with her honey voice, her soulful sensibility, Diana exuded glamour and grace that filled stages that helped to shape the sound of Motown.  On top of becoming one of the most successful recording artists of all time, raised five kids -- somehow found time to earn an Oscar nomination for acting. 

Elouise Cobell
When Elouise Cobell first filed a lawsuit to recover lands and money for her people, she didn't set out to be a hero.  She said, "I just wanted…to give justice to people that didn't have it."  And her lifelong quest to address the mismanagement of American Indian lands, resources, and trust funds wasn't about special treatment, but the equal treatment at the heart of the American promise.  She fought for almost 15 years -- across three Presidents, seven trials, 10 appearances before a federal appeals court.  All the while, she traveled the country some 40 weeks a year, telling the story of her people.  And in the end, this graduate of a one-room schoolhouse became a MacArthur Genius.  

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 
Here's how great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was:  1967, he had spent a year dominating college basketball, the NCAA bans the dunk.  They'd didn’t say it was about Kareem, but it was about Kareem.  (Laughter.)  When a sport changes its rules to make it harder just for you, you are really good.  (Laughter and applause.)  And yet despite the rule change, he was still the sport's most unstoppable force.  It's a title he'd hold for more than two decades, winning NBA Finals MVPs a staggering 14 years apart. 

Bruce Springsteen
"The hallmark of a rock and roll band," Bruce Springsteen once said, is that "the narrative you tell together is bigger than anyone could have told on your own. . .I am the president, but her is The Boss."
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The #CuresAct (H.R. 34) has passed in the House in support of fight against Opioid abuse and Biden's Moonshot cancer research program

buzzz worthy. . .

Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 34, the 21st Century Cures Act

 
This critically important legislation will get states the resources they need to fight the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic. It invests the $1 billion the President has repeatedly said is necessary to help communities that have seen far too many overdoses. It also responds to the Vice President’s call for a Moonshot in cancer research by investing $1.8 billion in new resources to transform cancer research and accelerate discoveries. Plus, it invests nearly $3 billion to continue the President’s signature biomedical research initiatives, the BRAIN and Precision Medicine Initiatives, over the next decade to tackle diseases like Alzheimer’s and create new research models to find cures and better target treatments.
 
H.R. 34 also takes important steps to improve mental health, including provisions that build on the work of the President's Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force. It further advances the drug approval process by taking steps like modernizing clinical trial design and better incorporating patients’ voices into FDA’s decision-making processes. Like all comprehensive legislation, the bill is not perfect, and there are provisions the Administration would prefer were improved, but the legislation offers advances in health that far outweigh these concerns. The Senate should promptly pass this bill so that the President can sign it.
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TONYA LEWIS TAYLOR RUSHED TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM

buzzz worthy. . .



New York, NY --Gospel Artist Tonya Lewis Taylor was rushed to the emergency room and has been in the hospital since Tuesday. On Monday night she started to complain of severe head pains. Tonya who insist that she doesn't get headaches mentioned in a Facebook post that she felt like "her head was about to explode." Tonya has a family history of aneurysms and strokes, she is currently undergoing tests to determine the source of the issue. Please keep her in your prayers! 

ABOUT: 
Tonya Lewis Taylor 
 
single 
 
"I'm A Winner" 
 
debut top 30 on the Billboard Gospel Charts off her latest project/EP 
 
"I've Got To Win.
 
With the highly anticipated release of her national debut album
 
"Delayed But Not Denied" 
 
in 2014 (which she wrote and co-produced all of the songs), Tonya's music has seen incredible momentum, blazing radio airwaves. Her gospel music classic
 
 "Thank You" 
 
reached number 
 
15 
 
on the
 
 Billboard charts.
 
Tonya has been afforded opportunities that emerging artist rarely receive.  She was hand-picked to be the opening act for the 32-city 
 
Festival of Praise Tour 
 
with 
 
Fred Hammond and Donnie McClurkin.
 
She has been featured on 
 
Trinity Broadcasting Network 
 
with 
 
Clifton Davis
 
, and in concert on 
 
TBN's 15th Street Live.
 
Tonya has appeared on 
 
Bobby Jones Gospel, ABC's Here & Now, MSNBC's Melissa Perry Show.

Tonya Lewis-Taylor is not only a singer/songwriter and producer but a teacher, award winning philanthropist and an author. 



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Friday, December 2, 2016

PHOTOS OF WHITE HOUSE 2016 CHRISTMAS DECOR: Final Christmas at White House emotional for Michelle Obama

buzzz worthy. . .

By Mona Austin

First Lady Michell Obama speaks to military families at the final White House Christmas Decor preview in the
East Room on November 29, 2016. All photos by Mona Austin.



First Lady Michelle Obama delivered emotional remarks at the final White House Christmas preview on Tuesday.

Days beforehand she said receiving the offical White House Christmas tree was the "easy part." Saying a final farewell to military families who were a part of the Joining Forces initiative she and Dr. Jill Biden started was clearly the hard part. She got choked up just before announcing the official start of Christmas in Washington.  From the volunteers to the event planner and crew that hung the chandaliers, Mrs. Obama expressed hearfelt gratitute to the people who made the holidays special at the White House over her family's stay. Mrs. Obama said she tried to make the White House a place where people from all walks of life could feel comfortable.  


The centerpiece to the holiday decor is an 18 foot tall Douglas fir, dedicated to military families, that stands alone in the Blue Room.  Stuffed replicas of Bo and Sunny are the first to greet visitors as they gaurd their gifts that were fashioned into a tree. Each room bears a touch of elegance, sophistication and simplicity that catches the eye. The First Lady wore a red, blue and gold flared out dress with a floral brocade pattern that also complemented the elegant tone of the decor. Most of the items were recycled from years past.

The children in attendance joined the first lady in the State Dining Room to decorate gingerbread houses and meet the real Sunny and Bo.

Afterwards, families were treated to  holiday cookies and apple cider in a reception.
A girl, who looked to be about 13 years old, crossed the room with her mouth agape. Stopping sqarely in front of a woman who was presumabe her mother she stated in disbelief, referring to the FLOTUS, "I can't beleive she just hugged me."  

By this guest's reaction it is safe to say Mrs. Obama accomplished her mission of making another White House visitor feel comfortable, while delivering the gift of joyful memories.

The theme this year is "Gifts of the Holidays."  That message  is spread throughout each room to highlight the gift of family, gift of education, gift of service and sacrifice, and the gift of joyful memories.

To make arrangements for a White House tour go to www.whitehouse.gov.









Highlights:

This year, 56 LEGO gingerbread houses—one for each state and territory—made from more than 200,000 LEGOS, will nestle in the branches of the trees throughout the State Dining Room.
·         The White House Gingerbread House in the State Dining Room is an annual tradition. This year’s gingerbread house will feature 150 pounds of gingerbread on the inside, 100 pounds of bread dough on the outside frame, 20 pounds of gum paste, 20 pounds of icing, and 20 pounds of sculpted sugar pieces. For the second year, it will feature both the East and West Wings.
·         This year’s White House Christmas Tree, on display in the Blue Room, is a 19 foot Douglas Fir donated by a tree farm in Pennsylvania, trimmed to fit into the Blue Room.
·         The majority of the holiday décor was designed by Rafanelli Events and executed by 92 volunteers from across the country. 
·         Columns on the South Portico will be wrapped in lights this year.
·         A new tree made entirely of hoses will be on display in the White House Kitchen Garden.
·         Only 10 percent of the design used new products and materials. The remaining 90 percent uses repurposed ornaments and embellishments that were already a part of the White House holiday inventory.
·         The First Lady will be introduced by Hazel Bethel from Cutler Bay, Fla.

East Visitor Entrance and East Wing Hallway
·         Holiday Volunteer: Patrick Clayton (New York, NY)
·         As guests enter the White House, they will be met with a literal interpretation of “a gift”—a giant present that serves as a backdrop for photos.
·         More than 8,000 bows and ribbons will line the East Hallway, leading to larger than life replicas of Bo and Sunny—who have gotten into the presents—made of more than 25,000 yarn pom-poms.

East Colonnade
·         Holiday Volunteer: Christine Framstad (Clifton, VA)
·         Rounding the corner into the East Colonnade, guests can look up at the more than 7,500 strands of ribbon in a myriad of colors hanging with sparkling crystal ornaments.

Booksellers
·         Holiday Volunteer: Xiomara Grant (Springfield, VA)
·         Moving to Booksellers, guests will see a tribute to The Gift of Service, as we honor our military families through the First Lady and Dr. Biden’s Joining Forces initiative. A giant flag installation will feature images of the First Family with military members and Gold Stars hung on the military tree to honor the fallen. For the second year, a digital interface will be available for guests to send messages to our troops.

Lower Cross Hall/Ground Floor Corridor 
·         Holiday Volunteer: Julie Byrne (Washington, D.C.)
·         The Lower Cross Hall will be turned into a winter wonderland, complete with “snowball” arches created from more than 6,000 ornaments, with countless snowmen lining the corridor.

Library
·         Holiday Volunteer: Vicki Shapro (Seabeck, WA)
·         The Gift of Education will be brought to life in The Library, highlighting the more than 2,700 books housed there. Rulers will rim the base of the holiday trees while crayons and pencils create additional standalone trees. The colorful ornaments on display will spell out the word “girls” in 12 different languages, paying homage to the First Lady’s Let Girls Learn initiative.

Vermeil Room
·         Holiday Volunteer: Stacy Owens (Lexington, KY)
·         Decorated with inspiration from the portraits lining the walls, the room will feature pastel-toned ornaments in “ballerina” pinks and pearl garlands adorning the trees.

China Room
·         Holiday Volunteer: Isabel Rubio (Birmingham, AL)
·         Commemorating previous presidencies, the room will feature 30 White House Historical Association ornaments.

Grand Foyer and Cross Hall
·         Holiday Volunteer: Maurice Edwards (Hope Mills, NC)
·         The Grand Foyer will serve as the setting for The Gift of Reflection. Next to stacked columns of shiny presents, mirrored ornaments will adorn the trees and garlands, reflecting the hope and gratitude in each visitor.

State Dining Room
·         Holiday Volunteer: Diane Wright (Watertown, CT)
·         The State Dining Room will celebrate The Gift of Family and Friends. Inspiration for the room’s décor comes from the feeling of warmth at the holidays—spending time with family and friends and celebrating together in our homes. 
·         Fifty-six LEGO gingerbread houses—one for each state and territory—made from more than 200,000 LEGOS, will nestle in the branches of the trees throughout the room. Each of the LEGO gingerbread houses are a one-of-a-kind creation and feature colors, architecture styles and whimsical details that pay tribute to each state or territory.
·         On the mantle, a first-of-its-kind LEGO paper chain measuring approximately 18 feet long will hang alongside LEGO “gingerfriends”, built from 4,900 LEGO bricks.
·         A team of seven LEGO Master Builders in the Enfield, Conn. offices of LEGO Systems spent a total of 500 hours designing and building the custom LEGO gingerbread decorations for the State Dining Room.
·         Homemade holiday treats will also hang as ornaments and gumdrop wreaths will hang from the windows in the room.
·         The White House Gingerbread House will also make its annual appearance, featuring 150 pounds of gingerbread on the inside, 100 pounds of bread dough on the outside frame, 20 pounds of gum paste, 20 pounds of icing, and 20 pounds of sculpted sugar pieces. For the second year, it will feature both the East and West Wings.

Green and Red Rooms
·         Holiday Volunteer: Beverly Jensen (Seal Beach, CA)
·         The First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative inspired the design in the Green and Red Rooms, representing The Gift of Good Health. The rooms will feature fruits and pollinators, representing healthy eating. Wreaths made of lemons and garlands made of limes will line the walls of the Green Room. Oranges, apples, and pomegranates will mix with greens to create wreaths in the Red Room, along with gift boxes made out of cranberries.

Blue Room
·         Holiday Volunteer: Patricia Ochan (Arlington, VA)
·         Inside this oval room will be this year’s White House Christmas Tree—a 19 foot Douglas Fir donated by a tree farm in Pennsylvania, trimmed to fit into the Blue Room.
·         Ornaments on the tree reflect the unity of our nation, donated by our fellow citizens across the country, as well as our military service members serving in the U.S. and overseas. The tree’s garland features a ribbon with the preamble to the U.S Constitution. 

East Room
·         Holiday Volunteer: Jacqueline James (Redlands, CA)
·         The East Room will be the setting for traditional holiday décor, with red, gold and green ornaments, swooping garland, and golden Ferris wheels set atop the table and mantles.
    

The centerpiece of the room is the annual tradition of The White House Crèche. The nativity scene, made of terra cotta and intricately carved wood, was fashioned in Naples, Italy in the eighteenth century. Donated to the White House in the 1960s, this piece has sat in the East Room for the holidays for more than 45 years, spanning nine administrations.






















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Mavis Staples and James Taylor among 2016 Kennedy Center honorees

buzzz worthy. . .


The Kennedy Center Honors announced  that its honorees for 2016 will be Argentine pianist Martha Argerich, rock band the Eagles, screen and stage actor Al Pacino, gospel and blues singer Mavis Staples and musician James Taylor. They will be recognized during THE 39TH ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS, to be broadcast Tuesday, Dec. 27 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT), on the CBS Television Network. CBS has broadcast the special each year since its debut 39 years ago.
“The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates the spectacular talents of artists whose brilliance has left a lasting impact on our society,” stated Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein. “These Honorees represent what is possible when creativity is not just cultivated, but unleashed. Martha Argerich’s distinguished performances have spanned the globe and over the last six decades have earned her world recognition as one of the greatest pianists of the 20th and 21st centuries; the Eagles’ ambitiously themed albums epically merged the American West and rock ’n’ roll, paving the way for unconventional music makers and artists to come; Al Pacino has embodied some of the most powerful characters of our time on both the stage and silver screen; Mavis Staples’s unmatched gospel and rhythm and blues masterpieces span 60 years and even served as a musical backdrop to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign for civil rights; and James Taylor’s warm baritone and poetic lyrics embody the art of songwriting, making him one of the defining musical figures of our time and his music the soundtrack of our country.”
“Reflecting on the powerful commitments these artists have made to their crafts as well as the cultural contributions they have made over the course of their illustrious careers is a humbling experience,” commented Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. “These Honorees have each played a unique role in shaping America’s artistic landscape with their work, expressing their creativity in ways that pushed the boundaries of what art can do, and what it can mean. Their artistic triumphs have motivated us, moved us, and will continue to inspire us for generations to come.”
In a star-studded celebration on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage, the 2016 Honorees will be saluted by great performers from New York, Hollywood and the arts capitals of the world. Seated with the President of the United States and Mrs. Obama, the Honorees will accept the recognition and gratitude of their peers through performances and tributes.
The President and Mrs. Obama will receive the Honorees along with the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees at the White House prior to the performance and gala. The 2016 Kennedy Center Honors concludes with a gala dinner in the Grand Foyer.
The Honors recipients are recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts – whether in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures or television – and are confirmed by the Executive Committee of the Center’s Board of Trustees. The primary criterion in the selection process is excellence. The Honors are not designated by art form or category of artistic achievement; over the years, the selection process has produced a balance among the various arts and artistic disciplines.
ABOUT THE HONOREES
Martha Argerich (Argentine pianist)
Martha Argerich was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Considered a child prodigy, she began her first piano lessons at the age of 5 with Vincenzo Scaramuzza. In 1955, she moved to Europe and continued her studies in London, Vienna and Switzerland. In 1957, she won the Bolzano and Geneva Piano Competitions, and in 1965 the Warsaw International Chopin Competition. She made her first commercial recording in 1960, followed by her U.S. debut in 1965 in the Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series. Since then, she has been considered one of the most prominent pianists in the world, both in popularity and ability.
She rose to fame with her interpretations of virtuoso piano literature of the 19th and 20th centuries. Her large repertoire includes Bach, Bartók, Beethoven and Messiaen, as well as Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Debussy, Ravel, Franck, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. Though she is often invited by the most prestigious orchestras, conductors and music festivals in Europe, Japan and America, chamber music currently represents a significant part of her musical life. Her collaborations with other artists are legendary as is her support for young artists. She has organized international competitions where she sometimes serves as juror, hosts an annual festival, performs special concerts and teaches masterclasses herself, as well as with frequent collaborators.
Argerich has recorded for EMI, Sony, Philips, Teldec and DGG and performed for worldwide broadcasts, receiving numerous international distinctions. Among her numerous accolades, she is the recipient of three Grammy Awards®, continuing to elevate the classical music genre in quality and appeal to a global audience.
Eagles (rock band: the late Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh)
The Eagles are one of the most influential and commercially successful American rock bands of all time. With their profound lyrics, harmonies and country-tinged melodies, they created a signature Southern California sound. The Eagles have sold more than 120 million albums worldwide, have scored six #1 albums and have topped the singles charts five times. The band’s “Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975)” album, with sales in excess of 29 million units, is second only to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as the greatest-selling album of all time.
Glenn Frey was born in Detroit, Michigan. Growing up, he studied piano and played in local bands. After moving to Los Angeles, he met Don Henley. After touring together as members of Linda Ronstadt’s backing band, they began writing songs that would appear on their debut album, Eagles. Frey and Henley co-wrote most of the band’s best-known songs. Glenn Frey succumbed to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia and died on January 18, 2016. Don Henley was born in Cass County, Texas, in 1947 and co-founded the group with Frey. Joe Walsh was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1947. He was already a well-known solo artist when he joined the Eagles in 1975. Walsh's creative contribution to music has received praise from many of the best rock guitarists. Timothy B. Schmit was born in Oakland, California, in 1947. He joined the Eagles in 1977. Although the Eagles are thought of as a quintessential California band, Schmit is the only member of the group to actually be a native of California.
Although the band was initially together only from 19711980, they were enormously popular. As a result of overwhelming public demand for their music and its messages, they reunited in 1994 for an MTV concert special. A live recording of the concert, “Hell Freezes Over,” sold millions of copies and launched a tour that ended up running through August 1996. The group released a long-awaited studio album, “Long Road Out of Eden,” in 2007 to critical acclaim.
Al Pacino (actor)
Actor and director Al Pacino is a unique and enduring figure in the world of American stage and film. Born in East Harlem, he grew up in New York City’s South Bronx and studied performing arts until the age of 17 when he moved on to study acting.
He began to draw notice on the stage, honing his craft while working in numerous theatrical productions, including off-Broadway performances that led to multiple off-Broadway Obie Awards and his first Tony Award® by 1969. Pacino continued appearing onstage in the 1970s, picking up another Tony Award® while landing his first leading part in a feature film in 1971. It was the following year that Francis Ford Coppola selected him to take on the breakthrough role of Michael Corleone in “The Godfather.” He was nominated for an Academy Award® for his work on “The Godfather” and within the next six years he received another four Academy Award nominations for the films “Serpico,” “The Godfather Part II,” “Dog Day Afternoon” and “…And Justice for All.”
A long and rich film career has followed, with more than 45 titles, including “Scarface,” “Sea of Love,” “The Insider,” “Donnie Brasco,” “Heat” (where he shared the screen for the first time with fellow film icon Robert DeNiro) and “Any Given Sunday.” He garnered two additional Academy Award nominations and in 1992 won the Academy Award for Best Actor in “Scent of a Woman.” He played Shylock in Michael Radford’s film adaptation of “The Merchant of Venice” and received another Tony Award® nomination for Best Leading Actor for playing the same role on stage. Also, Pacino received the Golden Globe® Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement in Motion Pictures, the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award and in 2011 the National Merit of Arts from President Obama.
Mavis Staples (gospel and rhythm and blues artist)
This iconic singer is an alchemist of American music, having continuously crossed genre lines like no musician since Ray Charles. Over the course of her 60-year career as a musical pioneer, she has intrepidly blurred the lines between gospel, soul, folk, pop, R&B, blues, rock, Americana and hip-hop. Now in her seventh decade, with the release of her new album “Livin’ on a High Note, she is only gaining momentum.
Now in her seventh decade, with the release of her new album “Livin’ on a High Note,” she is only gaining momentum. She continues to tour incessantly, remaining vital, engaged and continually evolving her sound to reflect the times she traverses and influences with her music.
Since her first recording at age 13 in 1954, Mavis Staples has learned from, worked with and schooled countless legends, and has brought her own timeless talent to every performance. In the 1950s, she helped create the Delta-inflected gospel sound with her father Pops and her brother and sisters as The Staple Singers, followed by the freedom songs of the civil rights era. She rose to pop radio stardom during the Stax era with such hits as “I’ll Take You There,” “Respect Yourself” and “The Last Waltz.” Staples served as muse to both Bob Dylan and Prince at the peak of their careers. Her 21st-century collaborations include work with Van Morrison, Billy Preston, Zac Brown, Ry Cooder, Bruce Hornsby, Chuck D. and Willie Nelson. From her Grammy Award®-winning partnership with fellow Chicagoan Jeff Tweedy, to her HBO documentary “Mavis!,” the one constant has been Mavis and her singular voice. She has embraced her evolution, absorbing new sounds and ideas, rising to meet the challenges of longevity and bringing her message of hope and positivity to new listeners—song after song, show after show.
James Taylor (singer, songwriter)
As a recording and touring artist, James Taylor has touched people with his warm baritone voice and distinctive style of guitar-playing for more than 40 years, while setting a precedent to which countless young musicians have aspired. Over the course of his celebrated songwriting and performing career, Taylor has sold more than 100 million albums, earning gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards for classics ranging from “Sweet Baby James” in 1970, to “October Road” in 2002. In 2015, Taylor released “Before This World,” his first new studio album in 13 years, which earned him his first #1 album on the Billboard Charts and a Grammy® nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album. He has won multiple Grammy Awards and has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the prestigious Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2012, Taylor was awarded the distinguished Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government and the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony. In November of 2015, Taylor was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation’s highest civilian honor.
Currently, Taylor is in the middle of a five-month tour to more than 50 cities in North America, which includes sold-out performances at Tanglewood, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park.
Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment are executive producers of the special. White Cherry Entertainment is well known for producing the award-winning Tony Awards® for the last 14 consecutive years, and also for producing the Emmy Awards®, NFL Opening Kickoff and Super Bowl Halftime Shows, the Democratic National Convention, Presidential Inaugural Galas, and many others. To date, White Cherry Entertainment has won eight Emmy Awards, while Kirshner and Weiss have individually received an additional four Emmy Awards, six Directors Guild Awards, a Peabody Award and more than 30 Emmy nominations. This is the second consecutive year White Cherry will produce the Kennedy Center Honors. The Kennedy Center Honors Founding Producer is George Stevens Jr.
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