WASHINGTON Barbra Streisand, actor Morgan Freeman and country singer George Jones will be honored by the Kennedy Center in December along with choreographer Twyla Tharp and musicians Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who.
Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen Schwarzman hailed the "extraordinary genius and tenacity" of the 2008 lifetime achievement award recipients, who were announced Tuesday.
Their work, Schwarzman said, has "redefined the way we see, hear and feel the performing arts."
Performers from New York, Hollywood and Nashville will salute the honorees at a Dec. 7 gala to be aired later on CBS. For the last time, President Bush and first lady Laura Bush will host the honorees at the White House before the performance. The awards are presented the night before at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Schwarzman called Streisand's career "one of the most thrilling spectacles of our culture." The 66-year-old has worked in music, theater and film, selling more albums than any other female artist. She said in a statement that she was "humbled and thrilled" to join the recipients of the 31st annual Kennedy Center Honors.
Jones, a Texas native who now calls Nashville home, said in an interview that he always thought of himself as an "old country boy singing beer-drinking songs. I never dreamed I'd ever be this big in the business." He turns 77 Friday.
Freeman, 71, currently starring in "The Dark Knight," made headlines after suffering broken bones in a Mississippi car crash last month. He won an Oscar for his role in "Million Dollar Baby" and his other screen credits include "Driving Miss Daisy" and "The Bucket List."
Schwarzman said Tharp, 67, is an "American original, whose work has indelibly enriched the vocabulary of modern dance, contemporary ballet and the Broadway musical." He said Townshend, 63, and Daltrey, 64, as singers and songwriters for the band The Who, "transformed the sights and sounds of rock and roll."
Past honorees, including Clint Eastwood, Elton John and Sidney Poitier, made nominations for the awards, along with members of the Kennedy Center's national artists committee, including Glenn Close and Reba McEntire.
Tickets to the gala sell for as much as $4,000. Last year the event raised $5 million to support Kennedy Center programs.
The event will come after the presidential election that has consumed Washington but before the next president is inaugurated. Several of the honorees have weighed in on the race.
Streisand, a longtime Democrat, is supporting Barack Obama after earlier endorsing Hillary Clinton. More recently, she slammed Republican presidential nominee John McCain for picking Sarah Palin as his running mate.
"This calculated, cynical ploy to pull away a small percentage of Hillary's women voters from Barack Obama will not work," Streisand wrote on her Web page. "We are not that stupid!"
Jones, who looks forward to visiting Bush before he leaves the White House, said he usually leans toward supporting Democrats but is backing McCain this year because of his experience.
"I think he knows everything that needs to be known to lead this country and get it back right," Jones said.