Music icon is a recipient of the 2018 Kennedy Center Honors on CBS
Country music occasionally factors into the Kennedy Center Honors … and thanks to Reba McEntire, that’s the case again this year.
A winner of many accolades (including three Grammys), the singer-actress is among those celebrated in the 41st annual ceremony that CBS televises Wednesday, Dec. 26. Gloria Estefan – feted at the 2017 edition of the Washington, D.C., event – returns to host as Cher, composers and musicians Philip Glass and Wayne Shorter, and the creators of the stage musical “Hamilton” including Lin-Manuel Miranda also receive medals for their contributions to the performing arts.
Recorded earlier this month, the Kennedy Center Honors represent a career milestone for the ever-friendly McEntire. “It was a huge surprise and a thrill,” she recalls of being notified. “To be a part of it, it’s a dream come true.”
Celebrities saluting McEntire include Kelly Clarkson (who’s married to McEntire’s stepson), Brooks & Dunn — with whom McEntire just completed a Las Vegas concert residency — Kristin Chenoweth, Lady Antebellum and “Reba” sitcom co-star Melissa Peterman. McEntire maintains she had no idea they would represent her before they took the stage: “I had tried to find out, and (the producers) just smiled and said, ‘Can’t tell ya!’’’
McEntire reports she’s known co-recipient Cher a while. “She is a very acclaimed and well-known actress besides being a singer, and I’ve done television and 11 movies, so I guess we’re kind of carrying both of those gauntlets here. With everybody else, though, this was my first time getting to meet them. I did see ‘Hamilton,’ but I didn’t get to meet anybody from it.”
The Kennedy Center Honors and McEntire aren’t strangers to each other, since she participated in the ceremonies celebrating Carol Burnett, Lily Tomlin and fellow country-music staples Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. Noting that she has “sat in the audience, stood and turned around and applauded those in the balcony bring honored,” McEntire says, “It’s a wonderful program, star-studded and full of emotion.
“It is a huge honor to be in that category of people I have watched and learned from and admired and known as friends. Everything about this is just totally positive for me.”
It’s also positive for country music in general. Over the four decades-plus of the Kennedy Center Honors, McEntire is only the seventh artist in the genre to be given the medal. The male recipients have been Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, George Jones and Merle Haggard.
“What country music does,” McEntire reasons, “it brings songs that are relatable to people who are listening. It’s their life stories, the predicaments they are going through or have been through. I call some of country music spiritual, because it does help heal your heart.”