Gospel Singer Mavis Staples to Get Kennedy Center Honor


The gospel singer Mavis Staples has toured the world with her family as part of the Staple Singers, sang for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the height of the civil rights movement, spent weeks on the Billboard charts, experienced a midcareer resurgence in the 1980s thanks largely to Prince, and once turned down a marriage proposal from Bob Dylan. Now the soon to be 77-year-old will be a Kennedy Center honoree, the second gospel singer, after Marion Williams in 1993, to be recognized in the awards’ history.

“I started crying, I hit the floor, I asked my manager, ‘Are you sure?’” Ms. Staples said by phone, recalling the moment she heard the news. “I’m still excited and in disbelief. It’s so uplifting. I feel good. I must be the happiest old girl in the world.”

Ms. Staples is one of five honorees selected to receive one of the nation’s top prizes for artistic achievement. She will be joined by the pianist Martha Argerich, the singer-songwriter James Taylor, the actor Al Pacino and the band the Eagles.

The Eagles were chosen to receive the prize last year, but deferred acceptance until 2016 because of the illness of the frontman Glenn Frey. Mr. Frey died in January, and the rockers will accept the honor in memory of their “comrade and fellow traveler,” they said in a statement.

Mr. Taylor called the prospect of attending the ceremony “astonishing,” and added in a statement, “I am deeply moved to be included in such august company and hugely grateful to the Kennedy Center Honors for the gift of this great honor.”

The recipients will gather later in the year for an official gala and ceremony, one of Washington’s rare red-carpet events. They will be toasted by Secretary of State John Kerry, who will award them their medallions, and will be received at the White House by President Obama and his wife, Michelle.

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SOURCE: N.Y. Times – Jada F. Smith