Barry Gibb pays emotional tribute to late brothers at 2023 Kennedy Center Honors

4 December 2023, 12:05

Barry Gibb at the 2023 Kennedy Center Honors
Barry Gibb at the 2023 Kennedy Center Honors. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

The John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has once again rolled out the red carpet for its annual celebration of lifetime artistic achievements, the Kennedy Center Honors.

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This year’s gala event, held on December 3, 2023, was a star-studded affair that recognized the profound contributions of five legendary artists to the cultural life of the nation.

The Honorees

The 2023 honorees represent a diverse tapestry of artistic brilliance, each having left an indelible mark on their respective fields:

  • Billy Crystal, the beloved actor and comedian, whose career spans stand-up, film, and television, has kept audiences laughing for decades with his memorable performances and comedic timing.
  • Renée Fleming, known as ‘America’s soprano,’ has captivated opera lovers around the world with her luminous voice and incomparable artistry.
  • Barry Gibb, the Australian-British singer-songwriter-producer and member of the iconic Bee Gees, has set the music world alight with his falsetto sound and groove style.
  • Queen Latifah, the trailblazing ‘First Lady of Hip Hop,’ has shaped the genre from its earliest days, using her platform to become a powerful voice for change.
  • Dionne Warwick, the soulful songstress, has inspired generations with her signature voice and a treasure trove of hits.

The evening was filled with tributes and performances that celebrated the honorees’ contributions to the arts.

President Joe Biden on Barry Gibb - 46th Kennedy Center Honors (White House Reception)

At the end of his speech, Barry paid tribute to his late brothers, saying: "Thank you all, this is the most incredible honour of my life.

"Without my brothers, I wouldn't be standing here. I salute Maurice, Robin, and Andy. We were a family of music and a family of love."

Each artist had various tributes and performances in honour of their work. Among them was former honoree Gladys Knight, who sang 'I Say a Little Prayer' for Dionne Warwick.

Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, Barbra Streisand and Paul McCartney appeared in pre-recorded messages for Barry Gibb, before country band Little Big Town sang the Bee Gees’ 'Lonely Days'.

Michael Buble was also on hand to praise Gibb’s iconic hair, and sang his version of 'How Can You Mend a Broken Heart', which helped launch Buble’s career. Ariana DeBose also performed an excellent medley of Gibb’s biggest hits.

President Joe Biden was in attendance, and the event saw its share of light-hearted moments, including a friendly jest about the President’s age by none other than Robert De Niro.

The ceremony also marked a special tribute to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, recognizing the genre’s evolution and its impact as an international phenomenon.

The gala was hosted by Gloria Estefan, a previous Kennedy Center Honoree, who brought her charm and warmth to the proceedings.

The broadcast of the 46th Annual Kennedy Center Honors will air on Wednesday, December 27, on CBS and Paramount+.