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Kennedy Center honors Brown

The Kennedy Center — usually home to opera, symphony and theater — rocked Sunday night, as stars from the R&B charts paid tribute to ‘Godfather of Soul’ James Brown.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Kennedy Center — usually home to opera, symphony and theater — got on the good foot Sunday night, as stars from the R&B charts paid tribute to “Godfather of Soul” James Brown.

Kennedy Center Honors also went to country singer Loretta Lynn, violinist Itzhak Perlman, comedian Carol Burnett and director Mike Nichols.

Rapper LL Cool J said Brown “broke down mental and social barriers and made it possible for me, a black kid from Queens, to stand in front of presidents and say, ’Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.”’

Younger R&B stars covered some of Brown’s hits, with Anastacia performing “Sex Machine,” Joss Stone singing “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” and Brian McKnight tackling “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”

Country legend Lynn was toasted by Sissy Spacek, who played her in the film biography “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” “I loved being you, Loretta,” Spacek said. “I could’ve gone on being you for the rest of my life.”

Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Lyle Lovett and Patty Loveless performed a medley of Lynn’s hits.

Playwright Tom Stoppard saluted Nichols by noting his many other prizes. “The Mike Nichols Every Medal or None International Committee — or MNEMONIC, as we like to call ourselves — has so far awarded Mike Nichols 87 medals,” Stoppard said, for movies, plays, albums and “personal hygiene.”

Elaine May, Nichols’ one-time partner in comedy, also was on hand. Candice Bergen, Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christine Baranski joined in a musical-comedy salute to Nichols’ career as director of Broadway shows, including the original production of “The Odd Couple,” and movies, including “The Graduate.” Nichols’ latest film, an adaptation of Tony Kushner’s epic play “Angels in America,” debuted Sunday on HBO.

Julie Andrews introduced Burnett as an old friend who “seems to bring out some devil in me.” Andrews joined Scott Bakula, John Schneider, Elaine Stritch, Kim Cattrall, Florence Henderson, Tim Conway and Bernadette Peters, who came onstage wearing costumes from “The Carol Burnett Show” and sang a musical tribute culminating in the show’s theme song.

Alan Alda said Perlman “plays the violin as if it could come alive, and it does.” Fellow violinist Pinchas Zuckerman led a group of students from the New York-based Perlman Music Program in a performance of Vivaldi’s “Summer” from “The Four Seasons.”

One of the students told Perlman: “I would like to thank you for always believing that each and every one of us has something special to offer. You are like a father to us.”

The Kennedy Center Honors will be broadcast on CBS Dec. 26.