Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney Receive Kennedy Center Honors Salute

10:13 PM PST 12/05/2010 by David Ciminelli
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Paul McCartney and Oprah Winfrey.

Julia Roberts, John Travolta and Gwen Stefani offered praise and song at event that also paid respect to Merle Haggard, composer Jerry Herman and dancer Bill T. Jones.

President Barack and first lady Michelle Obama were on hand today to salute entertainment luminaries Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney, country singer Merle Haggard, composer Jerry Herman and dancer Bill T. Jones with the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C.

Hollywood's A-List was also there to congratulate the honorees, reports the Associated Press. Julia Roberts, John Travolta and Barbara Walters each offered personal reflections of their relationships with Winfrey, and Jennifer Hudson serenaded the CEO of Harpo Productions with "I'm Here" from The Color Purple -- Winfrey starred in the film and produced the show on Broadway.

"Simply put, she is the best interviewer ever," Walters said. "No one comes close - not even me. And those of you know me know how painful it was for me to say that."

Not to be outdone, McCartney was serenaded by famous friends that included Gwen Stefani and her band No Doubt, the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and solo artists Norah Jones and James Taylor, who all performed Beatles tunes.

Broadway veterans Angela Lansbury and Carol Channing performed songs for Herman, while Haggard's friends and fans Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock made up the country coalition.

Playwright Edward Albee and actress Claire Danes said a few words in honor of multiple-Tony Award winner Jones, who nabbed his latest Broadway trophy this year for Fela!

"Although the honorees on this stage each possess a staggering amount of talent, the truth is, they aren't being recognized tonight simply because of their careers as great lyricists or songwriters or dancers or entertainers," Obama said. "Instead, they're being honored for their unique ability to bring us closer together and to capture something larger about who we are -- not just as Americans, but as human beings."

This year's Kennedy Center Honors will air on CBS on December 28.

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