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    Billy Joel, Shirley MacLaine Top Kennedy Center Honors List

    FILE - Billy Joel poses at a piano in New York, Dec. 12, 2011.
    FILE - Billy Joel poses at a piano in New York, Dec. 12, 2011.
    Reuters
    Pop singer Billy Joel, Oscar-winning actress Shirley MacLaine and jazz composer Herbie Hancock on Thursday were among the annual recipients of this year's Kennedy Center Honors, one of the United States' top cultural awards.
     
    Rock guitarist Carlos Santana and opera soprano Martina Arroyo also will be honored at the ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts on Dec. 8 in Washington, D.C.
     
    The Kennedy Center Honors, which were created in 1978, recognize the lifetime contributions of performing artists to American culture.
     
    Joel, 64, a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter who broke out with 1973's  “Piano Man,” is one of the best-selling pop musicians in the United States. Hancock, 73, is considered an innovative jazz composer and pianist who was an early adopter of synthesizers and made waves with solo works “Cantaloupe Island” and “Watermelon Man.”
     
    Santana, 66, is best known as a guitar virtuoso who fused rock and Latin music, while Arroyo, 76, became a mainstay at the world's top opera houses from the 1960s to 1980s.
     
    MacLaine, 79, won an Academy Award for her lead role in the 1983 comedy-drama “Terms of Endearment” and was nominated for four other acting Oscars. She also helped break the Hollywood studio's system of contracted movie stars.
     
    The honorees will be received by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at a White House event prior to the ceremony, which will be broadcast by network CBS on Dec. 29.
     
    Kennedy Center Honors recipients are selected by a Kennedy Center committee and come from the fields of music, dance, theater, opera, film and television.
     
    The honors have been bestowed on more than 180 performers, including included Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Meryl Streep, Luciano Pavarotti, Paul McCartney and Willie Nelson.

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