WASHINGTON — The “Piano Man,” who became one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time with such hits as “Just the Way You Are,” “Uptown Girl” and “Allentown,” was awarded the nation’s highest honor Sunday for influencing American culture through the arts.
Billy Joel, 64, joined fusion guitarist Carlos Santana, 66; jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, 73; opera star Martina Arroyo, 76; and actress Shirley MacLaine, 79, in receiving the Kennedy Center Honors.
Joel said the honor stands apart from his six Grammys.
“This is different. It’s our nation’s capital,” he told the Associated Press. “This is coming more from my country than just people who come to see me.”
President Barack Obama saluted the honorees Sunday night, and top entertainers offered tribute performances. The show will be broadcast Dec. 29.
“The diverse group of extraordinary individuals we honor today haven’t just proven themselves to be the best of the best,” Obama said. “Despite all their success, all their fame, they’ve remained true to themselves – and inspired the rest of us to do the same.”
MacLaine’s younger brother Warren Beatty has won a Kennedy Center Honor, making them the first brother and sister to both receive the honor.