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Sting honoured by Kennedy Centre


US president Barack Obama congratulates Sting for his Kennedy Centre honour (AP)

US president Barack Obama congratulates Sting for his Kennedy Centre honour (AP)

US president Barack Obama congratulates Sting for his Kennedy Centre honour (AP)

Pop star Sting has received a Kennedy Centre Honour - America's highest accolade for influencing the country's culture through the arts.

The 63-year-old singer joined actors Tom Hanks and Lily Tomlin, singer Al Green and ballerina Patricia McBride for this year's awards in Washington. US president Barack Obama saluted the winners at the White House before the show.

Top performers and power players from Hollywood, Broadway and Washington gathered for a gala performance hosted by Stephen Colbert, which will be broadcast on December 30.

Sting, who broke out in 1978 with his band The Police and hits such as Roxanne and later Every Breath You Take before starting his solo career, has won 16 Grammy Awards.

Young musicians came to sing his tunes in his honour, with Lady Gaga performing If I Ever Lose My Faith In You, Esperanza Spalding singing Fragile and Bruno Mars singing a medley of So Lonely, Roxanne and Message In A Bottle.

Bruce Springsteen also sang a tribute to his friend and made a toast at a State Department dinner.

"Sting makes me feel like a musical Neanderthal. When we get together, we always have the same argument. He insists that there are more than three chords, while I insist that there are not," he said, to laughs.

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Sting said he was bewildered by the honour. "You know, for an Englishman to receive this reward, it's not unique, but it's rare, and I take that pretty seriously," he said.

The singer will shift to Broadway tomorrow, joining the cast of The Last Ship, in his musical about his home town of Wallsend, Tyne and Wear.

Film-maker Steven Spielberg, who collaborated with Tom on many projects, said "America's favourite son" opened a window on the nation with films including Philadelphia, A League Of Their Own, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13 and Saving Private Ryan.

Before the show, Tom, 58, joked that a mistake must have been made in the choice for a fifth honouree.

Former president John F Kennedy's appreciation for the role of the arts helped inspire the Kennedy Centre's creation as a memorial to the 35th president.

"It's clear that the group on stage with me tonight understands what President Kennedy understood: that our art is a reflection of us not just as people, but as a nation. It binds us together," Mr Obama said.

Lily, 75, made her career in comedy after moving to New York City as a waitress. She went on to create memorable comedy specials, Broadway shows and movie roles, including 9 to 5 with Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton. She also played the US president's secretary in the TV series The West Wing.

Al, 68, born to sharecroppers in Arkansas, made his name touring the gospel circuits of the South and now is one of the defining voices of Memphis soul. His hits include Let's Stay Together, Take Me To The River and Here I Am (Come and Take Me).

Leading entertainers including Usher, Jennifer Hudson and Earth, Wind and Fire sang some of his greatest hits.

Patricia, 72, joined the New York City Ballet at 16 after studying under the great choreographer George Balanchine and quickly became the company's youngest principal dancer at 18, a role she held for 28 years, performing around the world.

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