WASHINGTON, D.C. - President Barack Obama hosted his final Kennedy Center Honors gala at the White House on Sunday.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama were introduced after the inductees: actor Al Pacino; gospel singer Mavis Staples; Argentine pianist Martha Argerich; singer-songwriter James Taylor; and Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmidt and Joe Walsh, the surviving members of the Eagles.
The Kennedy Center Honors is in its 39th year. The ceremony will be broadcast Dec. 27 on CBS.
Earlier, at the White House, Obama welcomed the honorees at a reception and said participating in the gala was “one of the perks of the job.”
Former president Bill Clinton made a surprise appearance on stage Sunday to talk about how Taylor’s music resonated with him and the American public in times that tested the nation’s resolve.
“Our nation was reeling from the pain of Vietnam,” Clinton said. “James was there to satisfy our hunger for both intimacy and authenticity.”
The tribute to Pacino included words from Sean Penn and recitations of Shakespeare by Laurence Fishburne and Lily Rabe. Chris O’Donnell and Gabrielle Anwar re-enacted the tango that Pacino danced with Anwar in “Scent of a Woman,” the 1992 movie that won Pacino an Oscar.
Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow and Darius Rucker performed medleys of Taylor’s music. Yitzhak Perlman played violin and Yuja Wang played piano to honor Argerich.
Staples’ songs were performed by Elle King, Bonnie Raitt and Andra Day.
The Eagles were originally selected to be honored in 2015, but the band decided to wait because of founding member Glenn Frey’s poor health. Frey died on Jan. 18 at age 67. Bob Seger, Vince Gill and Kings of Leon performed the Eagles’ music on Sunday.