Motown Founder Berry Gordy Reacts to Receiving Kennedy Center Honor: ‘I Think I’m in a Dream’

2021 Kennedy Center Honoree Berry Gordy on December 5, 2021. (Credit: Michael Butcher)

Motown founder Berry Gordy was celebrated at the annual Kennedy Center Honors, along with other iconic artists who’ve made lasting contributions to American culture.

“I think I’m in a dream… and it’s a wonderful dream,” Gordy told reporters, according to Reuters.

Gordy launched Motown Records in 1959 in Detroit before the label moved to Los Angeles. He shaped the careers of legendary artists including Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and Lionel Richie.

Fellow Kennedy Center Honors recipients this year include operatic bass-baritone Justino Diaz, Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, and actress and singer-songwriter Bette Midler.

Related Story: Motown Founder Berry Gordy Retires From Showbiz at 89

2021 Kennedy Center Honors Class Photo (Credit: Scott Suchman/CBS)
2021 Kennedy Center Honors Class Photo (Credit: Scott Suchman/CBS)

The event was held Sunday night at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden attending the ceremony. They were joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Caroline Kennedy, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Chita Rivera, Steve Martin and Herbie Hancock.

As a tribute to Gordy, Motown icons Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson performed. Diaz was honored with a performance from the opera “Carmen.” Mitchell’s tribute featured performances of her songs by Nora Jones, Brandi Carlile, and others. The tribute to Michaels featured several Saturday Night Live comedians, and Midler’s close friends Goldie Hawn and Barbara Hershey offered testimonials.

The Kennedy Center Honors were held for the first time in five years since President Donald Trump opted to skip them altogether. Last year the show was paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year marked the 44th anniversary of the tradition. 

The Kennedy Center Honors will be broadcast on CBS on Dec. 22.