Cynthia Erivo, Chlöe, Gladys Knight & More Pay Homage To Dionne Warwick At The 46th Kennedy Center Honors

Photo Credit: Greg Allen/Invision/AP | The Kennedy Center/YouTube

The 46th Kennedy Center Honors aired this week on CBS, and the broadcast was filled with entertaining speeches and tribute performances paying homage to the five honorees. This year’s class included legendary pop/R&B hitmaker Dionne Warwick, British singer/songwriter/musician Barry Gibb, comedian/actor Billy Crystal, rapper/singer/actress Queen Latifah and opera singer Renée Fleming. Each artist had already received their medallions during a separate ceremony at the White House, and on this night, they received their flowers from an array of artists at the Kennedy Center.

The fête began with host Gloria Estefan and Sheila E. performing Miami Sound Machine’s “Conga” and Estefan’s solo jam “Get On Your Feet.” After that rousing medley, the first honoree to be celebrated was Dionne Warwick and showstopping performances followed.

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Debbie Allen appeared on stage for Warwick’s segment and spoke about her legacy, accomplishments and accolades. She then welcomed the first performers to the stage, Mickey Guyton and The Spinners who sang “Then Came You,” her 1974 hit with the group. The country star was in her R&B and soul bag and sounded fabulous with The Spinners’ current lineup.

After a career retrospective narrated by Jennifer Hudson, Allen returned to introduce Cynthia Erivo. The British singer and actress sang “Alfie,” one of Warwick’s many hit songs that were crafted with Burt Bacharach and Hal David during their creative partnership. Dionne smiled and looked on approvingly from the balcony as Cynthia sang to the rafters and the heavens. With her powerful, effortless vocals backed by an orchestra, she turned “Alfie” from a mere song into a spine-tingling moment when she hit the final notes.

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Cynthia Erivo was a tough act to follow, but Chlöe did her absolute best after Saturday Night Live’s Ego Nwodim brought a little comic relief to the proceedings. Chlöe performed “Walk On By,” and she brought the drama and her operatic vocal acrobatics for her live rendition.

Before the final musical tribute, Clive Davis then came out to share some remarks. The founder and president of Arista Records signed Dionne to the label in 1979 and is often credited with reviving her career at the time. He might have had the hookup, but Dionne had the talent.

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It could be said that they saved the best for last by enlisting fellow music royalty Gladys Knight to sing “Say A Little Prayer” in her friend’s honor. Gladys sounded incredible, which is her default setting, and Dionne grinned and rocked in her seat, feeling it as much as everyone else who was there to witness this greatness.

Kennedy Center Honors did right by Dionne Warwick. This was a tribute befitting an icon. View performances by Cynthia Erivo, Chlöe and Gladys Knight below, or watch the complete tribute and entire 46th Kennedy Center Honors special streaming now on Paramount+.

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