Garth Brooks, Joan Baez Named Among 2020 Kennedy Center Honors Recipients

by Clayton Edwards

The Kennedy Center Honors is an annual event that celebrates artists who have made their mark on American culture. The 2020 ceremony, like many other events, was postponed due to the pandemic. On Wednesday, The Kennedy Center announced the artists who will receive the prestigious lifetime achievement awards. Among those artists are folk singer Joan Baez and 90s country music icon Garth Brooks.

In a typical year, the Kennedy Center announces the honorees during the summer. The gala event takes place in December. Of course, by the time summer rolled around in 2020, it was clear that an event of that size and scope would not be possible in December.

Now, almost a year into the pandemic, many performers and event organizers have learned to work around the virus. The Kennedy Center Honors will do just that. Instead of one high-profile event, the Honors Gala will take place over a week. It will feature several smaller events for reduced audiences. About these changes, the Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter says, “This past year has taught us many things including the need to be flexible and adaptable.” She went on to say, “2020 has also shined a bright light on the impact of how art and culture speaks to our collective human experience. It can meet us at any moment— and sustain us during the most challenging days. Each of the 43rd Kennedy Center Honorees and their work continues to speak to American culture and our national fortitude.”

This year’s modified awards gala will celebrate artists from across the entertainment spectrum. The honorees are actress and choreographer Debbie Allen, actor Dick Van Dyke, violinist Midori, Garth Brooks, and Joan Baez.

Garth Brooks’ Indelible Mark on Music and Culture

The Kennedy Center Honors celebrate artists who have made a positive and lasting mark on American arts and culture. Garth Brooks certainly fits that description. He is one of the best-selling artists of all time. His music and charitable spirit have influenced and inspired countless people.

Garth Brooks is no stranger to The Kennedy Center Honors Gala. He has performed at the event several times in the past to honor other influential artists. In a statement, Garth Brooks said, “I have watched many of my heroes sit in that booth during their ceremony, I have even had the joyous honor of singing for some of them on their special night. The hope is to have contributed to humanity like my heroes have, to inspire us to be the most we can be as individuals, global citizens, and a part of human history.:

Joan Baez at a Glance

While almost every country music fan is familiar with Garth Brooks, some may not know Joan Baez. She released her first album in 1960 to almost-immediate success. In fact, her first three albums achieved gold status. While Baez is a songwriter, some of her most well-known songs are those written by other artists. Among those artists is Bob Dylan. She was one of the first high-profile artists to cover Dylan’s early songs and is credited with introducing him to a wider audience.

Baez is also an activist. Her performance of the song “We Shall Overcome” helped to bolster spirits at several prominent protest and civil rights rallies. She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma. Her involvement in protests and counterculture continued through the Vietnam War era.

Joan Baez’ biggest hits include “We Shall Overcome,” “Diamonds and Rust,” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”