By Hayden Wright
Last night’s Kennedy Center Honors marked the final presentation under Barack Obama’s presidency, and the ceremony reportedly included as many tributes to the outgoing president as to honorees like the Eagles, James Taylor and Mavis Staples. The star-studded tribute concert was hosted by Stephen Colbert and will air live on CBS December 27.
Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh received honors on behalf of the Eagles as the band’s three surviving members. Billboard reports that the Eagles were scheduled to receive honors last year, but they defrayed the award to give Glenn Frey (who passed away in January) time to recover from his health struggles. Frey’s widow Cindy attended on his behalf and the band’s music was performed by Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh.
“I want to dedicate this evening to our brother Glenn,” Henley said as his band accepted the honor. “He was so much a part of our success. He was the driving force in this band. He believed in the American dream.”
For the James Taylor tribute, former President Bill Clinton made a surprise appearance.
“Our nation was reeling from the pain of Vietnam,” he said. “James was there to satisfy our hunger for both intimacy and authenticity.”
Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow and Darius Rucker performed selections from Taylor’s catalog. Elle King, Bonnie Raitt and Andra Day performed Mavis Staples classics, while actor Don Cheadle recalled her participation in the civil rights movement and her performance at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration.
Other honorees included Al Pacino and pianist Martha Argerich. Colbert summed up the tone of the night with a final tribute—to the outgoing commander-in-chief:
“For the past eight years, the White House has given us a leader who’s passionate, intelligent and dignified.”
The line received a standing ovation.