Washington, D.C. — “The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song” celebrates Paul Simon, one of America’s most respected songwriters and musicians and the first recipient of the prize. The program airs Wednesday, June 27, 2007, at 9 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide. Taped at The Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. on May 23, the 90-minute, high-definition special features tributes from a star-studded line-up of performers and presenters. Performers include Yolanda Adams, Marc Anthony, Dixie Hummingbirds, Jerry Douglas, Art Garfunkel, Alison Krauss, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Lyle Lovett, Stephen Marley, James Taylor and Buckwheat Zydeco. Presenters include former poet laureate Billy Collins, Bob Costas and Lorne Michaels.
Upon being notified of receiving this honor, Simon said, “I am grateful to be the recipient of the Gershwin Prize and doubly honored to be the first. Spending an evening in the company of artists I admire is a songwriter’s dream come true.”
During his distinguished career Paul Simon has received many awards and prizes, including 12 Grammy Awards, three for album of the year, and 1986 winner “Graceland” was recently selected as part of the Library’s National Recording Registry. Simon is also a two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as half of the Simon and Garfunkel duo and again in 2001 as a soloist. He is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and a 2002 Kennedy Center Honoree. In 2006, Time Magazine named Paul Simon one of the “100 People Who Shaped the World.” Simon was the first American artist invited by President Nelson Mandela to perform in post-apartheid South Africa.
The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is named in honor of the legendary George and Ira Gershwin. This newly created award recognizes the profound and positive effect of popular music on the world’s culture. The prize will be given annually to a composer or performer whose lifetime contributions exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins.
In the same manner that Librarian of Congress James H. Billington consults with the wider cultural community to select the Poet Laureate and the John W. Kluge Prize for the Study of Humanity, he turned to leading members of the music community and to the expertise of the Library’s Music Division to develop an award that recognizes musical achievement in popular culture all over the world. “The Gershwin Prize is a milestone in the Library’s mission to recognize and celebrate creativity in order to spark imagination in this and future generations,” said Billington. “Few songwriters have had a broader influence or contributed more to song genres than Paul Simon. Because of the depth, range and sheer beauty of his music, as well as its ability to bridge peoples and cultures, he is the perfect first recipient of this prestigious award,” says Billington.
“The Gershwin Prize for Popular Song” is a production of CoMedia, Inc. and WETA Washington D.C. The creators and executive producers of “The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song” are Peter and Bob Kaminsky, Mark Krantz and Cappy McGarr. WETA executive producers are Dalton Delan and David S. Thompson.
Major funding for “The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song” is provided by Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Public Broadcasting Service.
WETA Washington, D.C., is the third-largest producing station for public television. WETA’s other productions and co-productions include “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” “Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal,” “The Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor,” “In Performance at the White House,” and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including “The Civil War,” and coming September 2007, “The War.” Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available on the Web site at www.weta.org.
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