'Godfather of Soul' feted at Kennedy Center

— The Kennedy Center -- usually home to opera, symphony and theater -- got on the good foot Sunday night, as stars from the R&B; charts paid tribute to "Godfather of Soul" James Brown.

Kennedy Center Honors also went to country singer Loretta Lynn, violinist Itzhak Perlman, comedian Carol Burnett and director Mike Nichols.

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AP Photo

Kennedy Center honor recipients and dignitaries pose for a group photo Saturday during a reception at the State Department in Washington. Honorees, clockwise from bottom left (wearing medals), are Loretta Lynn, James Brown, Carol Burnett, Mike Nichols and Itzhak Perlman. Dignitaries in the back row, from left, are Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center; George Stevens, producer of the honors; Jim Johnson, chairman of the Kennedy Center; and Colin Powell.

Rapper LL Cool J said Brown "broke down mental and social barriers and made it possible for me, a black kid from Queens, to stand in front of presidents and say, 'Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud."'

Younger R&B; stars covered some of Brown's hits, with Anastacia performing "Sex Machine," Joss Stone singing "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" and Brian McKnight tackling "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag."

Country legend Lynn was toasted by Sissy Spacek, who played her in the film biography "Coal Miner's Daughter." "I loved being you, Loretta," Spacek said.

Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Lyle Lovett and Patty Loveless performed a medley of Lynn's hits.

Playwright Tom Stoppard saluted Nichols by noting his many other prizes. "The Mike Nichols Every Medal or None International Committee -- or MNEMONIC, as we like to call ourselves -- has so far awarded Mike Nichols 87 medals," Stoppard said, for movies, plays, albums and "personal hygiene."

Candice Bergen, Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christine Baranski joined in a musical-comedy salute to Nichols' career as director of movies and Broadway shows.

At a White House ceremony before the Kennedy Center Honors, President Bush poked fun at Burnett's early struggles in college -- and his own. "For her first performance in acting class at UCLA, the teacher gave Carol Burnett a D-minus," Bush said at a White House ceremony. "But Carol found, as have I, that one bad grade or two is not the end of the road."

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