Jake’s Take: 10 More People Who Deserve Kennedy Center Honors

Kennedy Center Honors wish list

(Logo property of the Kennedy Center)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

Every year, I look forward to watching the Kennedy Center Honors (KCH)! This year, I am extremely excited to see George Lucas, Rita Moreno and Carole King (an artist who was on last year’s inaugural “10 People Who Deserve Kennedy Center Honors” article) join entertainment icons such as Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Billy Joel, Carol Burnett, David Letterman, Diana Ross, Elton John, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson, Lucille Ball, Oprah Winfrey, Ray Charles, Tina Turner and Tom Hanks in this illustrious group.

While only a few people with close ties to American culture determine which artists would get recognized for their work, Jake’s Take has come up with 10 more names of performers who harnessed their craft and inspired the entire country to embrace the arts.

In addition, I also came up with recommendations on which performers should pay tribute to them!

Debbie Allen:

2016 marks a big year for this quintuple threat! Ms. Debbie Allen will be celebrating 40 years in the entertainment industry. The actress-choreographer-director-producer-writer has worked on countless projects ranging from TV shows (Fame, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Grey’s Anatomy, Jane the Virgin and Scandal) to Broadway (2008’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof). However, Ms. Allen has made the biggest splash in the dance industry as she fostered the dreams of numerous students through both the Debbie Allen Dance Academy and as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD). Her work has been recognized through 3 Emmy Awards, 10 Image Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was appointed by President George W. Bush to be a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. A diverse group of performers and personalities such as Anika Noni Rose, Terence Howard, Ellen Pompeo, Shonda Rhimes, Nigel Lythgoe, President George W. Bush, Kennedy Center Honoree James Earl Jones and alumni from both the Debbie Allen Dance Academy and SYTYCD could pull off an excellent tribute.


Fleetwood Mac On With the Show

(Photo property of Warner Bros. Records)

Fleetwood Mac:

The Kennedy Center Honors have recognized rock bands who have made an impact on the American music industry. The surviving members of the Who (Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend) and Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones) each received the United States’ highest honor in performing arts. While the Eagles will be honored next year (as the band decided to forego the honor as Glenn Frey was recovering from an illness), I do not see a reason why the KCH Powers-That-Be should not recognize the legendary US-UK fusion rock band Fleetwood Mac.  As Mick Fleetwood and John McVie formed the nucleus of the band during Fleetwood Mac’s early days with Peter Green, it was not until John’s ex, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks came in and brought the group to international glory. With an iconic songbook, 100 million records, Grammy awards and a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction under their belt, I could see Fleetwood Mac’s tribute being one of the many highlights of the night.  If Fleetwood Mac is being honored by the Kennedy Center, I could see Hootie & the Blowfish, Jewel, John Mayer, Lorde, Matchbox 20, Maroon 5, Sheppard and Sheryl Crow come out-of-the-woodworks to unite for one epic tribute!

Janet Jackson Unbreakable album review

(Album cover property of Black Doll Inc.)

Janet Jackson:

For 42 years, Janet Jackson has entertained four generations of Americans with her music, acting and dancing. From her time on television shows such as The Jacksons, Good Times and Fame and star-making roles in Poetic Justice, Nutty Professor II and Why Did I Get Married to the 160 million records and countless awards such as her 5 Grammys, 12 American Music Awards and 33 Billboard Music Awards, Ms. Jackson has inspired numerous of people to start a career in the entertainment industry. If the Kennedy Center Honors committee could get Beyoncé, Britney, Chris Brown, Christina Aguilera, Ciara, Jason Derulo, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga and Usher to pay homage to the Queen of Pop, it would create one of the most epic moments in KCH history!

Little Richard:

I am very surprised that the Architect of Rock and Roll has not yet received this prestigious honor.  Little Richard has been active in the entertainment industry for almost 60 years. He laid the foundation and created the roadmap for many iconic musicians to follow. The late Ray Charles called him: “a man that started a kind of music that set the pace for a lot of what’s happening today.”  With many acolytes such as Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Billy Joel, Prince, Bruno Mars and Neil Young still active in the music industry, it does not make sense that the KCH should keep waiting to give him his due.

Stan Lee:

Let’s face facts, True Believers! Without Stan Lee, there would be no Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Daredevil, Avengers, Fantastic Four, the Inhumans or the X-Men! Mr. Lee (along with co-creators Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and John Romita, Sr.) made it possible for the Marvel Universe to be transported from comic books to successful film franchises (Avengers, Iron Man, Bryan Singer’s X-Men and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy), critically loved TV series (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, Daredevil and Jessica Jones), theme park attractions and even a Broadway musical (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark). I could see a plethora of actors and creators such as Hayley Atwell, Halle Berry, Charlie Cox, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, James Franco, Clark Gregg, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Tobey Maguire, Sir Ian McKellen, Krysten Ritter, Emma Stone, Sir Patrick Stewart, Ming-Na Wen and Joss Whedon celebrate Stan and Marvel Comics’ legacy on the Kennedy Center stage.

Howard Stern leaves AGT

(Photo property of NBC, SYCO TV & FremantleMedia North America)

Howard Stern:

Yes! You read right…Howard Stern! Before you accuse me of undermining the Kennedy Center Honors’ grandiose tradition with the inclusion of the polarizing media mogul, let me remind you of Mr. Stern’s accomplishments. The King of All Media rejuvenated conventional talk radio through his controversial features, created provocative Pay-per-view specials, 2 New York Times best-selling books (1993’s Private Parts and 1995’s Miss America) and put Sirius Radio on the map when he signed a contract to take The Howard Stern Show to the satellite radio giant in 2004. He also made radio interviews much more interesting with his style of questioning and chemistry with right-hand woman and co-host Robin Quivers, veteran Howard Stern Show staff member Fred Norris and producer Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate. He also gained a new generation of fans as America’s Got Talent’s head judge for 4 seasons, where he helped NBC keep the show as the number one summer show for four years! In addition to seeing Quivers, Norris and Baba Booey lead a chorus of Wack Packers, I could see longtime friends Jennifer Aniston, Jewel, Jon Bon Jovi, Nick Cannon, Katie Couric, Whoopi Goldberg, Jimmy Kimmel, Heidi Klum, David Letterman, Rosie O’Donnell and Jerry Seinfeld play roles in this tribute.

James Taylor:

For the past 15 years, I always felt that James Taylor kept playing the bridesmaid role during several ceremonies. Mr. Taylor paid tribute to friends Paul Simon (2002), Paul McCartney (2010), Yo-Yo Ma (2011) and Carole King (2015) and like Little Richard, I have been scratching my head trying to think of reasons why Mr. Taylor has not been honored with this award. As Mr. Taylor enters his 50th year in the music industry, America’s premiere singer-songwriter has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, earned 5 Grammy Awards and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  In addition to King, Ma, McCartney and Paul Simon, it would be a moving tribute to see his children, Ben and Sally Taylor, join Ben Folds, Jewel, John Mayer and Taylor Swift pay homage to the “You’ve Got A Friend” singer.


Barbara Walters retirement

(Photo property of ABC News)

Barbara Walters:

It’s odd that Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman earned their Kennedy Center awards before this trailblazing journalist. Since the 1960s, Ms. Walters has been a fixture in American households and played an important role in re-shaping the role women play in the television news industry. Since she started at ABC News in 1979, Ms. Walters reinvented the art of the interview as political dynasties (the Bushes, Clintons, Obamas and Reagans), world leaders (Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, Israel’s Menachem Begin and Russia’s Vladimir Putin), public figures (Muhammad Ali, Walter Cronkite, Monica Lewinsky and V. Stiviano) and entertainment icons (Lucille Ball, Bette Davis, Michael Jackson and Oprah Winfrey) went one-on-one with Ms. Walters and her audience always walked away with new information about her interview subjects.  In addition to her interviews, Ms. Walters created and executive produced the long-running daytime talk show, The View, which entitled women from different backgrounds to share their opinions in an open forum show. I could see many of Ms. Walters’ protégés such as Connie Chung, Katie Couric, Robin Roberts, Diane Sawyer and Oprah Winfrey collaborate with several View past-and-present co-hosts such as Meredith Vieira, Star Jones, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Whoopi Goldberg, Nicolle Wallace, Rosie Perez, Raven-Symone and Candace Cameron-Bure pay homage to Ms. Walters.

Diane Warren:

Who is Diane Warren? Ms. Warren is one of the most celebrated songwriters of the past 30 years! Do you remember the songs: “Because You Loved Me”? “How Do I Live”? “Un-Break My Heart”? “Music of the Heart”? “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”? “There You’ll Be”? “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me”? Ms. Warren co-wrote all of the songs that I just mentioned and countless others! Throughout her 32 years in the music industry, Ms. Warren collaborated with a smorgasbord of recording artists such as pop divas Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera and Whitney Houston; music legends Cher, Lionel Richie and Tina Turner; rockers Aerosmith, Eric Clapton and KISS and current Top 40 favorites Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Rita Ora. There are limitless possibilities for Ms. Warren’s tribute—Steven Tyler, Jessie J and Emil & Dariel tackling “I Don’t to Miss a Thing,” Gloria Estefan and John Legend on “Music of the Heart,” Christina Aguilera and Celine Dion on a once-in-a-lifetime performance of “These Are the Special Times,” Toni Braxton and Pentatonix on “Un-Break My Heart” and Rod Stewart with a backing choir finishing the tribute with the Patch Adams and Star Trek: Enterprise theme song: “Faith of the Heart.”


(Photo property of Getty Images)

(Photo property of Getty Images)

Betty White:

Rounding out the 2015 edition of this list is none other than America’s sweetheart—Betty White. For 76 years, Ms. White has entertained generations of Americans through numerous media platforms including radio, film and television. Her work on Password, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Hollywood Squares, the $25,000 Pyramid, The Golden Girls, Betty White’s Off Their Rockers and Hot in Cleveland has provoked uncountable tons of laughter, while her charity work as an animal rights activist has helped countless charities raise awareness about animals and their environment. I foresee an abundance of stars ranging from fellow legends such as Kennedy Center Honoree Morgan Freeman, Cloris Leachman, Mary Tyler Moore, Regis Philbin and Fred Willard to numerous past co-stars such as Valerie Bertinelli, Sandra Bullock, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and Ryan Reynolds all vying to be a part of her tribute.

Who do you think deserves a Kennedy Center Honor?

The Kennedy Center Honors will air Tuesday, December 29 on CBS!


  1. Yes there still are some missing people: Debbie Reynolds, Betty White, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, Dionne Warwick, Leslie Uggams, Donnie Osmond, Carly Simon, Lionel Richie

    • jacobjournalist says

      Hi Kim! Thank you for reading! I did actually include Ms. White in my article. However, I really like your choices. Have a great evening, Jacob.

  2. Ellen Hayes says

    Eric Clapton should definitely be honored! What is taking so long? He has been one of the most talented musicians to ever play a guitar.

  3. Ellen Hayes says

    If Eric Clapton receives the Kennedy Honor, what group should perform Layla?

  4. What about the performing arts, like dance, opera, theatre and classical music? And you ignore them in favor of Howard Stern? I don’t see how throwing bologna on some bimbo’s bottom can be considered a performing art.

  5. John-Michael Cuellar says

    Some others who I believe are more than deserving:

    Gladys Knight
    Patti LaBelle
    Dick van Dyke
    Liza Minnelli
    Denzel Washington
    Jane Fonda
    Gloria Estefan
    The Rolling Stones
    Eric Clapton
    Bette Midler
    Lionel Richie
    George Strait
    Whoopi Goldberg
    Diahann Carroll
    Carol Channing
    Little Richard
    Barry Gibb
    Dionne Warwick
    Phil Collins
    Janet Jackson

  6. Anton Spivack says

    I guess Stan Lee’s out of the running now. Some who should be honored are:

    Renee Fleming
    Arturo Sandoval
    Wynton Marsalis
    Pinchas Zukerman
    Berry First
    Spike Lee
    Burt Bacharach
    Shirley Caesar
    Tony Kushner
    Stephen Schwartz

    I still disagree about Howard Stern–he’s less a performing artist than a shock jock.

    • Thanks for your suggestions, Anton. I think that the Kennedy Center Honors should do a “Posthumous” honor each year for one to two pop culture figures.

      • That’s not how they do things, the purpose is to pay tribute to living people who are there to experience it. And these awards are for the performing arts, which is not the same thing as pop culture.

        And I meant Berry Gordy, my autocorrect changed it to first.

      • Just to remind you, the KCH are intended for the performing arts, not pop culture.

Copyright 2020 Jacob Elyachar