Carlos Santana and Billy Joel rubbed elbows with politicians and fellow celebrities this weekend in Washington, D.C. as they were recognized for their impact on American culture at the annual Kennedy Center Honors.
On Saturday, they attended a dinner hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry. Supreme Court JusticeSonia Sotomayor was also on hand and recalled how she "used to dance to Carlos Santana when I was in high school and college.”
Country superstar Garth Brooks was there for his friend Billy Joel, who he toasted by saying, “There’s a simple rule in music: Everyone before you is a god, and everyone after you is a punk." Joel called the Kennedy Center recognition different from his six Grammys. "It's our nation's capital. This is coming more from my country than just people who come to see me. It's a little overwhelming."
On Sunday, Santana, Joel and the other honorees -- Herbie Hancock, Shirley MacLaine and opera singer Martina Arroyo -- attended a reception at The White House with President Obama before heading to the Kennedy Center for Sunday's award ceremony. Obama joked that he was disappointed the guitar icon "wore one of his more conservative shirts this evening, Back in the day, you could see those things from space.”
Carlos called the honor "really supreme, because the award is being given to me by a black man. If it wasn't like that, I would say just send it to me. But since it's Mr. Barack Obama, I definitely had to make myself present and say from the center of my heart, 'You are the embodiment of our dreams and aspirations.'"
Tony Bennett spoke on behalf of Joel, saying, "Billy Joel is no less than the poet, performer, philosopher of today's American songbook." Don Henley serenaded him with "She's Got a Way" and Garth Brooks, who covered Joel's "Shameless" in 1989, did a medley of "Only the Good Die Young," ''Allentown," and "Goodnight Saigon," which featured a choir of Vietnam veterans. Brendon Urie ofPanic! At the Disco did "Big Shot," and Rufus Wainright chipped in with "New York State of Mind" before leading the audience in a sing-along of "Piano Man."
Harry Belafonte spoke for Santana, saying, "Now Carlos is a citizen of the world. He belongs to all of us. Carlos, you haven't transcended race and origin. Really, who of us has? You continue to be informed by the immigrant experience on the journey to the great American dream." Santana's musical tribute came from Sheila E., Steve Winwood, Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello and Fher Olvera, the lead singer of the Mexican rock band Mana.
Highlights from the Kennedy Center Honors will be shown on CBS on December 29th at 9p.m. ET.