The Library of Congress is celebrating Willie Nelson‘s 60-year career and his selection as the 2015 recipient of the
Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in Washington, D.C., with a series of events, culminating in a star-studded concert tonight.
The two-day celebration began with a presentation and special display on Tuesday in the Library’s historic Thomas Jefferson Building with a group of the nation’s lawmakers, who recognized Nelson for his contributions to popular music.
“Everywhere you look in this magnificent building there are symbols of knowledge, creativity and invention so it is fitting at this time to honor one of the world’s most creative and inventive people, this year’s award recipient, Willie Nelson,” said Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao.
“It is truly a privilege to have Willie Nelson with us in our nation’s capital and to be able to recognize him for the immense contributions he’s made to the culture of America through music,” said U.S. House of Representatives Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress Gregg Harper.
“It is a great honor to be receiving the Gershwin award,” said Nelson to the group of well-wishers. “I have been a fan of Ira and George Gershwins’ music since I was a little guy and in appreciation for the award-and also I wanted to make some great music-I’ve just recorded a complete Gershwin album. It’s called Summertime.”
In honor of the legendary songwriting team, the Gershwin Prize recognizes a living musical artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding, entertaining and informing audiences, and inspiring new generations. Previous recipients are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King and Billy Joel.
President Jimmy Carter said in a letter that Nelson’s music has “enriched the lives of people far and wide for decades” and that he is truly worthy of this “prestigious and well-deserved award.”
Steeped in the roots of country music, Nelson’s songs have a universal appeal and embrace the rich musical language of the American experience. A diverse group of the world’s pre-eminent performers is paying homage to Nelson’s musical genius showcasing some his most memorable songs-tonight at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.
The concert will feature performances by Edie Brickell, Leon Bridges, Rosanne Cash, Ana Gabriel, Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, Cyndi Lauper, Raul Malo of The Mavericks, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Paul Simon, Neil Young and Buckwheat Zydeco. Nelson will also perform some of his favorite tunes. The master of ceremonies for the evening festivities will be actor Don Johnson.
“I could not have wished for a more complete source of inspiration in life, and in music, than my father,” said the country music icon’s son Lukas Nelson, also a singer, songwriter and guitarist. “I count myself as one of the luckiest people alive to have been born to such a noble, loving, and gifted human being.”
During the evening’s event, Nelson will be presented with the prize by the Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao, U. S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Richard J. Durbin, U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, U.S. House of Representatives Chairman of the Committee on House Administration Candice S. Miller and U.S. House of Representatives Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress Gregg Harper.
The concert will air on PBS stations nationwide at 9 p.m. ET on Friday, Jan. 15 (check local listings). The program also will be broadcast at a later date via the American Forces Network to U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world. “Willie Nelson: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize” is a co-production of WETA Washington, D.C., and Bounce, a division of AEG. The executive producers of the program are Dalton Delan, David Mao, Michael Strunsky and Mark Rothbaum.