Motown Records founder Berry Gordy will be one of five honorees honored for his lifetime artistic achievements at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 5, 2021. Gordy created the blueprint for Black artists and executives to become financially successful and built a musical empire that still resonates to this day.
Establishing the careers of veteran performers like Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder, the Motown Records executive and songwriter has been credited for inspiring the careers of Diddy, Jay-Z, Jermaine Dupri and Master P. The 91-year-old Gordy told the Detroit Free Press that the honor was also a tribute to his team that helped him along the way.
“My first reaction was joy, then disbelief, and then: ‘Did I hear that right? It was so exciting to me overall. I had all these emotions at one time, and I realized how much it meant to me. By honoring me, I feel it also recognizes the unsung heroes of Motown. They worked and laughed and cried and died to make my dream and the Motown legacy a reality. So I can never forget them — ever, ever, ever,” Gordy told the newspaper.
Operatic bass-baritone Justino Díaz, “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels, stage and screen icon Bette Midler, and singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell will also be honored for their legendary careers.
“The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates luminaries whose art and creativity have enriched us beyond measure … Berry Gordy brought the quintessential soulfulness of Detroit into every home in America, elevating the Motown sound to become a national treasure,” Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein told The Associated Press.
Motown superstars Wonder, Ross and Robinson were also received Kennedy Center Honors in the past.
“President Kennedy was one of my favorite heroes, so to be honored in his name means the world to me. I’m extremely happy to join the past and present honorees and become part of this American legacy,” Gordy also told the Detroit Free Press.
The Kennedy Center Honors traditionally have been attended by the sitting U.S. president and this year’s event will be taped for a two-hour prime-time special to air on CBS and stream on Paramount+. Check out the video announcement below.