Tom Hanks, Sting, Al Green, and actress Lily Tomlin were handed Kennedy Center honours by President Barack Obama on Sunday.
The celebrities, alongside ballerina Patricia McBride, received a ceremonial rainbow ribbon from Obama at the White House, for their lifetime contribution to American culture.
Hanks told Reuters, “I couldn’t believe it when I was notified that it was going to happen… I feel like, you know, there’s an anomaly in the vote-taking process.”
Obama said, “It’s clear that the group on stage with me tonight understands what President Kennedy understood: that our art is a reflection of us not just as people, but as a nation. It binds us together… Songs and dance and film express our triumphs and our faults, our strengths, our tenderness in ways that sometimes words simply cannot do.”
The ceremony was followed by a tribute concert. Usher, Earth, Wind & Fire and Jennifer Hudson sang a string of Al Green’s hits, while Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars performed highlights from Sting’s career.
Actor and comedian Martin Short lead a musical tribute to Hanks by singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” joined by military choirs and musicians.
David Letterman, director George Stevens, Jr. and Steven Spielberg also paid tribute to the actor, with the Saving Private Ryan director calling him “America’s favorite son”.
Jane Fonda and Glee‘s Jane Lynch also feted Tomlin.
The concert, hosted by Stephen Colbert, will be broadcast on CBS December 30.