Saxophone legend Sonny Rollins was one of five 2011 Kennedy Center honorees, alongside actress Meryl Streep, singer Barbara Cook, singer/songwriter Neil Diamond and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Rollins said of the honor, “I am deeply appreciative of this great honor. In
honoring me, the Kennedy Center honors jazz, America’s classical music.
For that, I am very grateful.”
Former President Bill Clinton gave the toast saluting Rollins, in which he said:
“It was unbelievable, and it still is. Decade after decade after decade, this man explores the far reaches of the possibilities of what has lovingly been called the devil’s horn. His music can bend your mind, it can break your heart, and it can make you laugh out loud. Still today after all these years, if I wake up in kind of a bad humor, or I’m worried about something, if I put on Sonny Rollins’ version of ‘Brown Skin Girl,’ I will laugh out loud.
I have thought so much about his unique gifts. He has done things with improvisation that really no one has ever done. In complexity and creativity, he rivals Coltrane.”
Congratulations to Rollins and all the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors recipients.