The annual ceremony, which was hosted by The Late Show‘s Stephen Colbert and attended by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on Dec. 4, paid tribute to the 2016 honorees: pianist Martha Argerich, rock legends the Eagles, actor Al Pacino, gospel and blues singer Mavis Staples, and singer-songwriter James Taylor.
Bonnie Raitt joined a handful of other stars in honoring legendary blues singer Mavis Staples at the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors.
Backed by a full gospel choir, Raitt and Day brought audience members to their feet with their powerful performance of two of the most beloved songs from Staples’ prolific career as both a solo artist and as part of her family band, the Staples Singers.
“Mavis Staples is a revelation; it’s as simple as that,” Raitt said in a spoken tribute to Staples before her performance. “From the first time I heard her sing, I was gone. She had the deepest, most soulful, simultaneously earthy and anointed voice I’d ever heard.”
Staples released her version of “We Shall Not Be Moved,” originally penned as an African-American spiritual, in 2007, paying homage to the Civil Rights Movement in which she and her family played a major part during the 1960s. Their involvement includes an historic live performance of “Freedom Highway” at Chicago’s New Nazareth Church in 1965; the song was written in honor of the more than 600 people who fought for African-Americans’ right to vote during the Selma-to-Montgomery marches that took place in March of 1965.
Along with Raitt and Day, Staples was also honored during the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors with a spoken tribute from actor Don Cheadle and vocal performances of her biggest hits, including a medley of “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There” by Elle King. Other honorees at the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors included James Taylor, the Eagles, pianist Martha Argerich and actor Al Pacino.
Bonnie Raitt Salutes Kennedy Center Honoree Mavis Staples
Bonnie Raitt shared a moving tribute to Kennedy Center Honoree Mavis Staples, who was honored for her career as a rhythm and blues singer.
Andra Day And Bonnie Raitt Honor Mavis Staples With Music Performance
Andra Day and Bonnie Raitt sang ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’ and ‘Freedom Highway’ during a tribute to Mavis Staples at the 39th Annual Kennedy Center Honors.
More info: The Kennedy Center Honors