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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, December 26, 2017 1:00 am

Estefan gets Kennedy attendees on their feet

Jay Bobbin | Zap2it

Typically, attendees of the Kennedy Center Honors rise to their feet a number of times during the ceremony, but there's a more literal reason this year.

Among the recipients is Gloria Estefan, whose long-popular songs and life with musician-producer husband Emilio fuel the stage production “On Your Feet!” – and surely inform much of the segment that salutes her during the 40th annual event celebrating icons of the performing arts. Taped in the month in Washington, D.C., it will have its traditional CBS airing tonight.

Also included as 2017 honorees are singer Lionel Richie, television producer Norman Lear (“All in the Family”), hip-hop veteran and “NCIS: Los Angeles” co-star LL Cool J, and actress-dancer-choreographer Carmen de Lavallade.

“It really is an honor and a thrill,” says Estefan, a recipient of numerous accolades including three Grammy and four Latin Grammy Awards. “I think this is up there with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for me. It's something so difficult to achieve, and I'm in such incredible company. Especially for an immigrant, this is such a beautiful tribute ... and it couldn't come at a better time.”

Indeed, Estefan adds, “I'm the first Cuban-American and the fourth Latin performer to receive it, so it is a big deal for us.”

Among those appearing on behalf of Estefan are Eva Longoria, Chaka Khan and Jon Secada. Others featured during the show include Meryl Streep, Stevie Wonder, Rita Moreno, Luke Bryan, Anthony Anderson, Rob Reiner, Dave Chappelle, Kenny Rogers, ballet star Misty Copeland, Queen Latifah, Rachel Bloom, Busta Rhymes, MC Lyte, Richie's daughter Nicole and filmmaker J.J. Abrams.

Estefan notes she's particularly pleased to be alongside Lear in receiving the Kennedy Center Honors, since she re-recorded the familiar theme song of his series “One Day at a Time” for its current Netflix reboot, which stars Moreno. “I was a big fan of the (original) show,” Estefan recalls, “so when I was told Norman Lear was involved, I said, 'I'm there.'”

Of classic tunes, Estefan – whose daughter Emily also has a music career now (and performs on the special) – certainly has generated many of her own, initially with the group Miami Sound Machine. Among them are “Conga,” “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” “Bad Boy,” “Get On Your Feet,” “Anything for You,” “Here We Are,” a hugely successful cover of Vicki Sue Robinson's “Turn the Beat Around,” and “Coming Out of the Dark” ... the song that marked Estefan's 1991 comeback after a tour-bus collision that left her critically injured.

“One of my favorite things is to walk through a Vegas hotel and hear a bar band doing one of my tunes,” Estefan said. “That, to me, is gold. I was in a 'gig' band, and I know what it took, and any song we chose to do was because we absolutely loved it and wanted to perform it ourselves. That's a big honor to me, that my music somehow has gotten through to other people.”