Kennedy Center Honors: The Top 10 Contenders For This Year’s Recipients In Order

Golden Derby
Kennedy Center Honors: Top 10 greatest entertainers who still need to be selected
By Chris Beachum
June 28, 2019

Bette Midler: Top Contender For Kennedy City Honors
This year’s 5 recipients will be announced sometime in the next few weeks

Last summer, we offered a special photo gallery of the 50 greatest entertainers still waiting to be selected for the Kennedy Center Honors. Among that group were country music superstar Reba McEntire plus pop star and Oscar-winning actress Cher. Both of them were in the honorees in December, along with composer Philip Glass and jazz musician Wayne Shorter, plus a unique section devoted to “Hamilton!.”

And now we provide our latest list of Kennedy Center Honors top 50 recommendations for 2019. Of course, only five of them can be chosen but certainly, all are worthy. Tour our photo gallery above ranked from #1 to #50. Each year, the selection committee chooses five entertainment veterans from a variety of fields – film, television, popular music, theatre, and the fine arts (dance, opera, classical music). Selected artists are almost always over 50 and generally are 60 and beyond.

This year’s recipients will be announced sometime in the next few weeks. The all-star event is held each year in the nation’s capital during the first weekend in December and then airs on CBS as a two-hour special after Christmas.

Each year, the selection committee chooses five entertainment veterans from a variety of fields – film, television, popular music, theatre, and the fine arts (dance, opera, classical music). Selected artists are almost always over 50 and generally are 60 and beyond.

Here’s a sneak peek at the gallery with our Top 10 selections listed below:

1. Dick Van Dyke
Van Dyke is just an Oscar away from EGOT status. He is a five-time Emmy Award winner for “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Van Dyke and Company,” and “The Wrong Way Kid.” He won a Tony Award for “Bye Bye Birdie” (1961) and a Grammy Award for “Mary Poppins” (1964). Van Dyke is a member of the Television Academy Hall of Fame and received the Screen Actors Guild life achievement award in 2013.

2. Liza Minnelli
Minnelli is very close to EGOT, having never won a Grammy Award before. She won a Tony Award for “Flora the Red Menace” (1965), an Oscar for “Cabaret” (1973), and an Emmy for “Liza with a Z” (1973). The daughter of legendary entertainer Judy Garland, other films have included “The Sterile Cuckoo” (1969, her first Oscar nomination), “New York, New York” (1977), and “Arthur” (1981).

3. Denzel Washington
Washington is the only African-American with two Academy Awards for acting (“Glory,” 1989; “Training Day,” 2001). His other Oscar nominations were for “Cry Freedom” (1987), “Malcolm X” (1992), “The Hurricane” (1999), “Flight” (2012), “Fences” (2016, producing and acting), and “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” (2017). He also won a Tony Award for the same role in “Fences” (2010). He received the AFI life achievement award in 2019 and the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2016.

4. Gladys Knight
The “Empress of Soul” started her career in 1952 on Ted Mack’s “Original Amateur Hour” TV show. Her group Gladys Knight and the Pips joined Motown in 1966 and became one of the top recording artists of the 1960s and 1970s with such hits as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “If I Were Your Woman,” “Neither One of Us,” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” The six-time Grammy winner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

5. Mick Jagger
Whether he gets selected by himself (like Paul McCartney) or with his group The Rolling Stones (like The Who and Led Zeppelin), this honor is long overdue. The lead singer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with his band in 1989. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003. Their lengthy list of hit singles has included “Satisfaction,” “Get Off My Cloud,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses,” “Angie,” and “Start Me Up.”

6. Jessica Lange
Lange is just one notch away from EGOT. She is a two-time Academy Award winner (“Tootsie,” 1982; “Blue Sky,” 1994) among her six nominations. She is a three-time Emmy champ (“Grey Gardens,” 2009; “American Horror Story,” 2012; and “American Horror Story: Coven,” 2014). Lange won a Tony Award in 2016 for “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Other films in her career have included “Frances,” “Sweet Dreams,” “Crimes of the Heart,” “Cape Fear,” and “Big Fish.”

7. Alan Alda
Alda has established himself as a triple threat on television, on stage, and in films. He won five Emmy Awards for the legendary comedy series “M*A*S*H” spread out over acting, directing, and writing (the only person to prevail in only three fields). He also took home a sixth Emmy for his role on “The West Wing” and was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1994. He’s been nominated at the Oscars (“The Aviator,”), Grammys (“Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself,” 2008), and three times at the Tony Awards (“The Apple Tree,” 1967; “Jake’s Women,” 1992; “Glengarry Glen Ross,” 2005).

8. Bette Midler
Midler was a big hit right out of the gates when she won Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards in 1974. It was the first of three Grammys along with three Emmys for her variety specials and a Tony Award in 2017 for “Hello, Dolly.” That just puts her an Oscar away from EGOT, and she has competed at those awards twice as a leading actress for “The Rose” and “For the Boys.”

9. Harrison Ford
Ford is the biggest box office star in American history but still hasn’t had much of an awards career but did receive an Oscar nomination for “Witness” (1985). He was awarded the American Film Institute life achievement in 2000 and the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes in 2002. His film career has included “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Working Girl,” “Regarding Henry,” “Patriot Games,” “The Fugitive,” “Air Force One,” and “42.”

10. George Strait
Strait has been one of the most popular country music artists of the past four decades and recently retired from touring. He is third only to Elvis Presley and The Beatles for the most gold and platinum albums in music history. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006.

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15 thoughts on “Kennedy Center Honors: The Top 10 Contenders For This Year’s Recipients In Order

      1. Hi Evelyn: Sorry for the delay. His name is
        Louis Rukeyser, and at the time he was known, I guess. cause my mother knew him, as like a financial guru and had a financial TV show called “Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser” It started in 1970, but I couldn’t find an end date. If it’s still om, I’m pretty sure he’s not the host anymot

  1. It sure would be nice for Bette to receive this award. Based on this Top 10 List, I could easily see Bette being in the Top 5.

    I’ve read some online reactions to this list, and there appears to be overwhelming sentiment for George Strait to be recognized this year. I wasn’t aware that he’s had 60 #1 Country Songs, and a country singer would add diversity to the roster of honorees this year. Not personally a fan, but his contribution to the genre is unparalleled.

    The top choice on the list, Dick Van Dyke, seems like a bit of a shoo-in to me. He’s definitely a television pioneer, who is still going strong at 92 (I believe), and always seems genuine with a good sense of humor about things.

    Part of how they decide who gets nominated is based on an individual’s contribution to society. With Bette’s historical efforts toward the environment (i.e., Adopt a Highway, mulching/recycling, NYRP, Million Trees, etc.), her efforts stand above many if not most (okay, let’s just say everybody else!) on the list.

    However, my concern is that the Event is primarily political. According to Wikipedia: “The invitation-only weekend-long ceremony includes the Chairman’s Luncheon, State Department dinner, White House reception, and the Honors gala performances and supper.” The gala includes the Secretary of State, and most of the time, the President of the United States (although Donald Trump has not attended, so as not to distract).

    I think when we look at the contentious relationship Bette has had politically with you-know-who, and just a lot in general, she becomes less safe as a nominee. Also, many people perceive her frequently profane comedic flair as a bit too much out of the mainstream (isn’t that one reason why we all love her!!!). So, although she certainly belongs at the top of the list, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see her honor perhaps arriving a year or two down the road, when hopefully, a more liberal and open-minded administration and sentiment becomes the majority.

  2. Well, I’ll have to look again, but I don’t think anyone on the “guess” list made it. The nominees include Sally Field (yep, Bette was robbed again), Sesame Street, Earth Wind and Fire, Linda Ronstadt (Linda has Parkinson’s, and prefers Trump not be there) and Michael Tilson Thomas.

  3. Liza is way overdue. Her impact on entertainment, fashion, human rights, known worldwide is unmeasurable.
    And if France can award her with The Legion of Honor, Kennedy Center equivalent, fir her contribution to the culture of France, and the French rarely award or recognize American influences, then surely we can bestow the same recognition here.

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