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Billy Joel, 4 others receive Kennedy Center Honors

  • 2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Carlos Santana and wife, Cindy Blackman arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

    2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Carlos Santana and wife, Cindy Blackman arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

  • 2013 Kennedy Center honorees, from left, Billy Joel, Shirley MacLain, Carlos Santana, Martina Arroyo, and Herbie Hancock pose for a photo at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

    2013 Kennedy Center honorees, from left, Billy Joel, Shirley MacLain, Carlos Santana, Martina Arroyo, and Herbie Hancock pose for a photo at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

  • Secretary of State John Kerry, with the 2013 Kennedy Center honorees, from left, seated Shirley MacLain, and Martina Arroyo, along with Teresa Heinz Kerry. Standing are Billy Joel, Carlos Santana, and Herbie Hancock,  pose for a photo at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

    Secretary of State John Kerry, with the 2013 Kennedy Center honorees, from left, seated Shirley MacLain, and Martina Arroyo, along with Teresa Heinz Kerry. Standing are Billy Joel, Carlos Santana, and Herbie Hancock, pose for a photo at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

  • Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with 2013 Kennedy Center honoree Shirley MacLain at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

    Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with 2013 Kennedy Center honoree Shirley MacLain at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

  • 2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Billy Joel and Alexis Roderick arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

    2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Billy Joel and Alexis Roderick arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

  • 2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Billy Joel and Alexis Roderick arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

    2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Billy Joel and Alexis Roderick arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

  • Justice Sonia Sotomayor arrives at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor arrives at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

  • 2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Herbie Hancock and wife, Gigi, arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

    2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Herbie Hancock and wife, Gigi, arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

  • 2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Martina Arroyo and family arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

    2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Martina Arroyo and family arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

  • Tony Bennett and Sandra Bennett arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

    Tony Bennett and Sandra Bennett arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

  • 2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Carlos Santana and wife, Cindy Blackman arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
  • 2013 Kennedy Center honorees, from left, Billy Joel, Shirley MacLain, Carlos Santana, Martina Arroyo, and Herbie Hancock pose for a photo at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
  • Secretary of State John Kerry, with the 2013 Kennedy Center honorees, from left, seated Shirley MacLain, and Martina Arroyo, along with Teresa Heinz Kerry. Standing are Billy Joel, Carlos Santana, and Herbie Hancock,  pose for a photo at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
  • Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with 2013 Kennedy Center honoree Shirley MacLain at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
  • 2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Billy Joel and Alexis Roderick arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
  • 2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Billy Joel and Alexis Roderick arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
  • Justice Sonia Sotomayor arrives at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
  • 2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Herbie Hancock and wife, Gigi, arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
  • 2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Martina Arroyo and family arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
  • Tony Bennett and Sandra Bennett arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

The “Piano Man” who became one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time with such hits as “Just the Way You Are,” “Uptown Girl” and “Allentown” was awarded the nation’s highest honor yesterday for influencing American culture through the arts.

Billy Joel joins Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, opera star Martina Arroyo and actress Shirley MacLaine in receiving the Kennedy Center Honors. All of them have been playing music, dancing or singing since they were children – and have never stopped.

Joel said the honor stands apart from his six Grammys.

“This is different. It’s our nation’s capital,” he told the Associated Press. “This is coming more from my country than just people who come to see me. It’s a little overwhelming.”

President Obama saluted the honorees last night, and top entertainers offered tribute performances for each honoree. The show will be broadcast Dec. 29.

On Saturday night, Secretary of State John Kerry hosted the honorees for a black-tie dinner at the State Department. Kerry said the artists had blazed trails and redefined the arts and American culture along the way.

“They are loved by so many, imitated by some, but never ever can they be replaced,” Kerry said. “We are reminded that the role of arts can also never be replaced.”

Garth Brooks toasted Joel at the dinner, saying his legacy would live on for generations. He said Joel has a special talent for writing songs about everyday people, from steel workers in “Allentown” to soldiers fighting in Vietnam in “Goodnight Saigon.”

“Music has a wonderful gift,” Brooks said. “For those that do it right, they can put you in shoes that you would never understand if it wasn’t for that song.”

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