WASHINGTON—Comedian Carol Burnett, Godfather of Soul James Brown, country music legend Loretta Lynn, director Mike Nichols and concert violinist Itzhak Perlman are this year's winners of the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors for their contributions to the performing arts.
The annual awards, among the nation's most important honors for lifetime artistic achievement, will be bestowed Dec. 6 during two days of festivities that will include a White House ceremony given by President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush and a banquet with Secretary of State Colin Powell as host.
UCLA, she dropped out in her junior year to become an actress in New York, where she soon landed small television roles. Eventually, she starred in "The Carol Burnett Show," which won 22 Emmy Awards in its 11-year run. She also starred in films and on the Broadway stage.
Brown, a.k.a. "Mr. Dynamite," 75, was born into poverty in Barnwell, S.C., and helped support his family by singing, dancing, and playing piano, drums and guitar on the streets. A 7th-grade dropout, he became a gospel singer and then switched to rhythm and blues in the 1950s. His hits include "I Feel Good" and "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag."
Immortalized in the 1980 film "Coal Miner's Daughter," Lynn, 68, was born in Butcher Hollow, Ky., as the second of eight children. She married at 13, became a mother at 14 and a grandmother at 29. She taught herself to play guitar and began singing in local clubs in Washington state, where she had moved with her husband and four children. She eventually became a regular on the "Grand Ole Opry" and recorded such hits as "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl" and "Coal Miner's Daughter."
Born Michael Peshkowsky in Berlin, Nichols, 71, came to the U.S. when his family fled Nazi Germany. Working his way through his studies at the University of Chicago, he discovered a niche in improvisational comedy, founding the Second City troupe with Elaine May and Alan Arkin, among others. His credits as a film director include "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "The Graduate," for which he won an Oscar.
Perlman, 57, was born in Tel Aviv, the son of a barber, and emigrated to the United States in 1958. He overcame childhood polio to win a scholarship to the Julliard School of Music, making his professional debut in 1963 at Carnegie Hall and becoming one of the world's foremost violinists.