Rocker Glenn Frey died before he could accept a Kennedy Center Honors award last year, but his Eagles bandmates and four other artists were feted Sunday at a bittersweet edition of the glitzy annual gala, the last of the Obama administration.
Actor-director Al Pacino, singer-songwriter James Taylor, singer Mavis Staples and pianist Martha Argerich rounded out the Kennedy Center Class of 2016.
The Eagles, credited with shaping the Southern California sound with hits such as “Life in the Fast Lane,” “Desperado” and “Hotel California,” were to receive Kennedy Center Honors last year, but their awards were postponed when band co-founder Frey took ill. He died Jan. 18 at age 67 from complications of rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia.
That left Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh, all 69, to collect Kennedy Center medallions on Sunday with Frey’s widow, Cindy.
“For our fans, 2016 didn’t have a harder beginning or a more appropriate ending,” Eagles manager Irving Azoff said in an interview before the black-tie event at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Added Schmit on Sunday as he entered the center: “The whole thing was a great ride from the moment I joined the band till the end,” he said. “It was kind of a roller-coaster ride, but it was real joyful.”
Ringo Starr heralded the Eagles’ legacy, then Bob Seger, the Kings of Leon, Vince Gill and the Colombian musician Juanes performed some of the Eagles’ biggest hits.
Earlier in the evening, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama had taken their seats to a standing ovation.
Soon the audience was transfixed when a past president took the stage: Bill Clinton left his saxophone at home but spoke in tribute of Taylor.
Taylor, is the tall troubadour whose warm baritone gave the world “Carolina in My Mind,” “Sweet Baby James” and “Country Road.”
After Clinton paid homage to Taylor, his “friend of many years,” a medley of his lasting hits was performed by Sheryl Crow, Garth Brooks and Darius Rucker.