Jake’s Take: Performers Who Deserve Kennedy Center Honors (The 2018 Edition)

Kennedy Center Honors wish list
(Logo property of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

I always look forward to the Kennedy Center Honors. This prestigious event celebrates lifetime contributions in American culture and the performing arts.  Throughout this decade, I presented several recommendations to the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts on which performers deserve this special recognition. 

Here are several more performers that should join the ranks of Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, James Earl Jones, Lucille Ball, Oprah Winfrey, Sir Elton John, Tom Hanks, and Tina Turner in this elite group.

(Photo property of Goldstar)

Arsenio Hall

Actor and comedian Arsenio Hall ruled the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s thanks to Coming to America, The Arsenio Hall Show, and the second incarnation of Star Search. He created monumental moments through his sit-downs with Howard Stern, Madonna, and President Clinton on The Arsenio Hall Show.  He also had the opportunity to launch performers’ careers such as David Archuleta, Janel Parrish, Josh Strickland, and Loni Love on Star Search. Also, it would be interesting to hear the Kennedy Center Honors chant “Woo! Woo! Woo!”

(Photo property of Broadway Direct)

Bernadette Peters

Bernadette Peters is a tour-de-force performer! She conquered the Great White Way through her impeccable performances in Mack & Mabel, Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, Gypsy, and Hello, Dolly! Many millennials might also recognize the two-time Tony-winning actress as the voice of Rita (Animaniacs), Cinderella’s wicked stepmother (Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella), and Gloria Windsor (Mozart in the Jungle).  She also gives back to worthy causes as she co-founded Broadway Barks, which promotes the adoption of shelter animals, and sits on the Board of Trustees for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

(Photo property of Cyndi Lauper)

Cyndi Lauper

The Emmy, Grammy, and Tony-winning performer created countless anthems from “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “She Bop” to “Time After Time” and “True Colors.” In addition to conquering the radio charts, Ms.Lauper also delivered impeccable performances as Marianne Lugasso (Mad About You) and Avalon Harmonia (Bones). Plus, she helped Harvey Fierstein bring Kinky Boots to Broadway as she wrote the music and lyrics to the Tony-winning musical. Ms. Lauper has been a staunch supporter of the LGBT community and partnered with the West End Residences to support LGBT youth in the New York City area. I could see Adam Lambert, Billy Porter, Emily West, Lady Gaga, Tegan & Sara, plus longtime friends Cher and Rod Stewart deliver a spectacular tribute if Cyndi is selected for this award.

(Photo property of Darlene Love)

Darlene Love

Rolling Stone named Darlene Love as one of the greatest singers of all-time. She helped Phil Spector produce his iconic Wall of Sound, and throughout her career, Ms. Love worked with Aretha Franklin, the Beach Boys, Dionne Warwick, Elvis Presley, and Sam Cooke. Ms. Love also acted as she appeared in the Lethal Weapon film franchise and portrayed Teen Angel in the 1994 Grease revival and Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray on Broadway. She also played a significant role in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom.  A plethora of entertainment legends such as Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler, David Letterman, Joy Behar, Paul Schaffer, and Whoopi Goldberg could play a significant role in the Darlene Love tribute.

(Photo property of Howie Mandel & NBC)

Howie Mandel

Howie Mandel has entertained countless fans throughout his 40 years in the entertainment industry. From his stand-up days and St. Elsewhere and Bobby’s World to Deal or No Deal and America’s Got Talent, Mr. Mandel has put smiles on many faces with his hysterical material. He also helped discover talented the next generation of entertainers including Jackie Evancho, Taylor Williamson, Drew Lynch, and Grace VanderWaal through his time on AGT. I could see some of these talented performers to pay tribute to him at the Kennedy Center.

(Photo property of Vogue & NFL)


Madonna is the undisputed Queen of Pop! She won seven Grammys, five Billboard Music Awards, two Golden Globes, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She has co-written some of pop music’s greatest songs of all-time such as “Express Yourself,” “Like a Prayer,” “Vogue,” “Ray of Light,” “Music,” “Hung Up,” and “4 Minutes.” It would be awesome to have some of music’s biggest names (Adele, Britney Spears, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, and P!nk) to pay homage to Madonna.

(Photo property of Wikimedia Commons)

Queen (Dr. Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon, & the late Freddie Mercury)

Over the past few years, the Kennedy Center honored rock bands who lost band members (the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and the Who). With Bohemian Rhapsody’s success, it is time that Dr. Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon, and the late Freddie Mercury be honored for Queen’s legacy. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the UK Music Hall of Fame. This tribute should include frontmen Adam Lambert and Paul Rodgers, Rami Malek, Annie Lennox, Jessie J, Jordan Smith, and some alumni from the We Will Rock You musical.   

Rosie O'Donnell leaves The VIew
(Photo property of ABC/Getty Images)

Rosie O’Donnell

Actress and comedian Rosie O’Donnell has been in our lives since she made her first appearance on the original Star Search. While she found some success on the silver screen with A League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seattle, and The Flintstones, Ms.O’Donnell found worldwide success with The Rosie O’Donnell Show by changing daytime television by incorporating families and Broadway into her show. Four years after she signed off, she revitalized The View by inserting politics into the mix.  Outside of television, Ms. O’Donnell co-founded Rosie’s Theater Kids, which helps New York City area children through the performing arts.

Simon Cowell Golden Buzzer
(Photo property of NBC)

Simon Cowell

If the Kennedy Center can honor Hamilton and LL Cool J, then the organization could honor a legendary Reality TV icon named Simon Cowell. The veteran talent judge revitalized talent competition shows as he spent nine seasons on American Idol, three seasons of X Factor USA, and created both the Got Talent and X Factor franchises. He also introduced Americans to a plethora of performers such as Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, Terry Fator, Darci Lynne Farmer, Susan Boyle, Leona Lewis, and One Direction. Besides the Cowell tribute would be one of the best tributes in show history with all the plethora of talent that might want to take part in this tribute.  

(Photo property of Broadcasting & Cable) 

Wheel of Fortune’s Pat Sajak & Vanna White
Numerous generations of Americans have let Pat Sajak and Vanna White into their homes since September 19, 1983. Wheel of Fortune has not only created phenomenal moments for television, but they also helped viewers learn how to read, spell, and have fun moments with their families. It would be a shame if they were not recognized for their contribution to American culture.

Who do you think should get recognized by the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts?

While the ceremony took place on Dec. 2, the festivities will air on Wednesday, Dec. 26 on CBS.


  1. I agree about Bernadette, Cyndi and Madonna, not so much the others.

    • Thanks for reading, Anton! I am glad that you agreed that Bernadette, Cyndi, and Madonna should get honored by the Kennedy Center.

      • Anton Spivack says

        But I don’t agree with Pat Sajak, Howard Stern or Simon Cowell. There’s a difference between a performing artist and an entertainment icon. And how come there are no jazz or classical musicians or opera singers on your list?

        • Hi Anton! This is an annual article. So there maybe opera singers, jazz and classical musicians on future editions. To be fair, Oprah and Letterman are entertainment icons, so if they can get honored by the Kennedy Center, so should Simon Cowell, Howard Stern, and Pat Sajak. Simon (Il Divo, Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, Terry Fator, Jackie Evancho, Susan Boyle, One Direction, Fifth Harmony, et cetera) and Howard (Forte, Mat Franco, Piff the Magic Dragon, and Taylor Williamson) discovered talented performers that made an impact on American society.

  2. Randall Gerber says

    After seeing your updated list, I think you’re were making a joke about the greatest awards for achievement in the arts,especially with Simon Cowell,Arsenio Hall and Rosie O’Donnell.There are people ALIVE that deserve this award.

    • Thank you for taking time out of your day to comment, Randall. I do this list every year and these are my opinions for the 2018 year. I hope that you return to see my 2019 edition.

  3. Vanna and Pat should get a Lifetime Achievement Emmy, but not the KCH. Neither should Barbara Walters, she’s a journalist and that’s not the same thing as a performing artist.

    If you want to include Simon Cowell and Howard Stern for discovering pop stars, why not Berry Gordy? He founded Motown and introduced the country to The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Supremes, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye and many other soul music greats. What’s more, he helped make African-American music mainstream.

  4. David M Rogers says

    I think it’s ridiculous that the Kennedy center honorees hasn’t pot Madonna in there yet. All that tells me is they just dnt care for her lets get real you ohh so nice people she’s paid her dues time and time again she’s the undisputed queen of pop music if all is being real if she hadn’t come on the scene when she did the pop music era I believe would of gone down. She with out a fought has been the face of pop music and ohhhh she’s still relevant today with all the new girls and boys doing there thing. Do what’s right and put her in


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Copyright 2019 Jacob Elyachar