Kennedy Center honorees each received a lengthy and personally tailored onstage tribute Sunday night sprinkled with surprise guests.
Gloria Estefan was greeted with performances of her greatest hits and a solo performance by her daughter Emily.
For LL Cool J, they recreated a club onstage with performances by Busta Rhymes and members of The Roots as well as a testimonial by Queen Latifah.
For television producer Norman Lear, a series of quick changes transformed the stages into the sets from "Good Times," ''All in the Family" and "Maude," with testimonials from Rob Reiner, Dave Chappelle and Anthony Anderson from the current hit show "Black-ish."
LL Cool J says it's "an amazing, amazing moment' for a hip hop artist who Kennedy Center officials describe as the youngest recipient ever to win an award at the Kennedy Center Honors.
The 49-year-old hip hop artist made the comments as he and other honorees made their entrance to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts along the Potomac River.
He says there were a lot of deserving rappers and performers from his generation but will not say that anybody deserves this over him
He said - quote - "I'm humble, but I'm not going to play pseudo-humble. I'm the one!"
Honorees and attendees are beginning to arrive at Washington's Kennedy Center for the 40th annual Kennedy Center Honors.
Among the first to walk the red carpet was Kenny Center President Deborah Rutter, who patiently fielded questioned about a high-profile no-show.
President Donald Trump announced he wouldn't be attending this year in the face of boycott threats by some of the honorees.
Rutter said the president's attendance is traditional and important but thanked the White House for avoiding a showdown that would have overshadowed the ceremony.
This year's Kennedy Center Honors will recognize some of the best artists and performers in the country, while skipping the political drama that had loomed over it in a divisive political atmosphere.
Television producer Norman Lear is a longtime political activist who threatened to boycott over his opposition to President Donald Trump. But a showdown was avoided when Trump announced in August that he would not attend.
Rapper and actor LL Cool J and Lear are among the honorees for this year. The 40th annual Kennedy Center Honors ceremony on Sunday night will also pay tribute to dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade and musicians Lionel Richie and Gloria Estefan.
The recipients were honored Saturday at a gala State Department dinner ahead of Sunday's ceremony.
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