At the 2015 The Kennedy Center Honors on Tuesday, December 29, 2015, three great ladies–Carol King, Cicely Tyson and Rita Moreno were among the five honorees.
Cicely Tyson, at 90 looks as elegant as ever. She is best known for her role in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. She was born in Harlem, New York City and raised by deeply religious, West Indian parents from Nevis, St. Kitts. Her mother was a domestic and her father was a carpenter. Cicely was discovered by a fashion editor and she became a model. She took the fashion industry by storm, quickly rising to the top. She began acting in 1957 in off-Broadway productions before she was cast in feature films. Her first major role was Portia in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter in 1968. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her amazing performance in Sounder. She has appeared in Roots, King and a Woman Called Moses. Cicely is a seasoned and hugely talented actress who portrayed strong and positive black women.
I don’t condemn anyone for making their choices. If someone chooses those roles, fine. But not for me. When someone stops me and says, You’re the reason I became an actress, that lets me know I made the right decision – Cicely Tyson
We applaud Cicely for standing by her convictions. Our choices can not only affect us but they can affect others.
Carol King wrote tons of songs such as “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” for the Shirelles, “Run to Him” (#1 and #2 hits for Bobby Vee in 1961), “Crying in the Rain” (The Everly Brothers, #6 in 1962), “The Loco-Motion” (Little Eva, #1 in 1962), “Up on the Roof” (The Drifters, #5 in 1962), “Chains” (The Cookies, #17 in 1962, The Beatles in 1963), “One Fine Day” (The Chiffons, #5 in 1963), “Hey Girl” ( Freddy Scott, #10 in 1963, also Bobby Vee and The Righteous Brothers), “I’m Into Something Good” (Herman’s Hermits, #13 in 1964), “Just Once in My Life” (written with Phil Spector for The Righteous Brothers, #9 in 1965), and “Don’t Bring Me Down” (The Animals, #12 in 1966) and You Make Me Feel which has become the song most associated with Aretha Franklin.
The songs I identify most with Carol are “You’ve Got a Friend” which became a no.1 hit when it was recorded by lifelong friend, James Taylor and “It’s Too Late”. Carol is the most renowned song-writer in pop music. She has the distinction of having 400 of her compositions recorded by over 1,000 artists, resulting in 100 hit singles. In 1987 she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and in 1990 she was inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
At the age of 70 this remarkable songwriter, performer, author and environmentalist is still going strong. Beautiful–The Carole King Musical which tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom won two Tony Awards in 2014 and a Grammy in 2015 for Best Musical Theater Album. Her music continues to thrill us.
It’s about connections. I want to connect with people; I want to make people think “Yeah, that’s how I feel”. And if I can do that, that’s an accomplishment – Carol King
We are grateful to Carol King for her music which still resonates with us.
Rita Moreno has starred in three great musicals–Singin’ In the Rain, The King And I and West Side Story for which she earned an Academy Award. She has the distinction of being one of the very few and the first performers to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy. She was born Rosita Dolores Alverío in Humacao, Puerto Rico to seamstress Rosa María (Marcano) and farmer Francisco. She and her mother moved to New York City where she began her career.
Unfortunately for Rita, she was typecast as a Hispanic pepper pot or another “exotic”. In Father Knows Best, she was cast as an exchange student from India. She considered the roles she was given degrading. It wasn’t until the ’70s that she was given better roles. It was during that time that she won a Grammy Award for her contribution to “The Electric Company”‘s soundtrack album, a Tony Award as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for “The Ritz” and Emmy Awards for The Muppet Show and The Rockford Files. In 2004, she received the award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. It is said that when her star was unveiled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she fell on top of it, openly and uncontrollably weeping, later commenting, “I had been dreaming of this day since I was six!”.
We admire Rita who came from humble beginnings to where she is now. She is a reminder that childhood dreams can come true.
Notes to Women salute these amazing women for their well deserved honors and recognition for their work in music, film and stage.