Joni Mitchell among Kennedy Center honourees for 2021

Joni Mitchell will be honoured this year as one of the winners of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ lifetime achievement award.

The legendary Canadian singer-songwriter joins Motown founder Berry Gordy, opera star Justino Díaz, entertainer Bette Midler and Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels (a fellow Canadian) in the lineup of winners of the 44th annual awards.

Presented annually since 1978, the Kennedy Center Honors are given to those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture.

“The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates luminaries whose art and creativity have enriched us beyond measure,” Kennedy Center chairman David M. Rubenstein said in a statement. “These artists are equal parts genius, inspiration and entertainment.”

From humble beginnings in Saskatoon, Joni Mitchell gained international acclaim in the late 1960s and early ’70s and went on to have an illustrious career as a singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, poet, producer and painter.

Described by the Kennedy Center as “one of the most influential singer-songwriters and cultural figures in 20th-century popular music,” Mitchell recorded 19 albums between 1968 and 2007 — including 1971’s Blue, widely considered one of the greatest records of all time — while exploring a range of styles drawing from folk, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, pop and R&B.

Mitchell has won eight Grammy Awards and has been inducted into both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In Canada, she has received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement and has been named a Companion of the Order of Canada.

The Kennedy Center had this to say about this year’s other winners:

Justino Díaz stood on the stages of the world’s great opera houses and today stands as one of the greatest bass-baritones of our time; visionary music producer and songwriter Berry Gordy brought the quintessential soulfulness of Detroit into every home in America, elevating the Motown sound to become a national treasure; Lorne Michaels created the most enduring ‘must-see television’ with Saturday Night Live, a show that is both mirror and muse for life in America; an artistic tour de force and America’s Divine Miss M, Bette Midler has enjoyed an unrivaled and prolific career, entertaining millions with her wondrous voice and trademark comedic wit.

“This year’s honourees represent the unifying power of the arts and surely remind us of that which binds us together as human beings,” said Kennedy Center president Deborah F. Rutter.

The award winners will be celebrated at a gala on Dec. 5, which will be recorded for broadcast at a future date.