It’s a busy season for Gladys Knight, the beloved “Empress of Soul.”

Just a few months ago, Knight, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and seven-time Grammy winner, was honored at the 45th Kennedy Center Honors for her lifetime of artistic achievements. The “Midnight Train to Georgia” singer is currently on the road, bringing her decades of music to major cities throughout the country — Salt Lake City included.

And now, Knight is one of several notable figures who has received a National Medal of Arts from President Joe Biden.

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On March 21, Knight — along with fellow artists Bruce Springsteen and “Feliz Navidad” singer-songwriter Jose Feliciano — received the prestigious award in a ceremony at the White House, the music site Pitchfork reported. The National Medal of Arts is “the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the federal government,” according to

“The National Medal of Arts recipients have helped to define and enrich our nation’s cultural legacy through their life long passionate commitment,” National Endowment for the Arts chair Maria Rosario Jackson said in a statement. “We are a better nation because of their contributions. Their work helps us see the world in different ways. It inspires us to reach our full potential and recognize our common humanity. I join the president in congratulating and thanking them.”

Last year, Knight expressed her gratitude for being named a Kennedy Center Honoree, along with George Clooney, Amy Grant, Tania León and U2.

“You could never have told me as a young girl starting my career that I would be honored on a stage such as this, with artists and humanitarians such as these — it just wouldn’t have seemed possible,” she said, per the Deseret News. “It would have been the dream of all dreams. I have been blessed with so much in my life, and this certainly stands with those achievements at the top of that list.”

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Who are all of the National Medals of Art recipients?

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According to, the 2021 recipients include:

  • Judith Francisca Baca.
  • Fred Eychaner.
  • Jose Feliciano.
  • Mindy Kaling.
  • Gladys Knight.
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
  • Antonio Martorell-Cardona.
  • Joan Shigekawa.
  • Bruce Springsteen.
  • Vera Wang.
  • The Billie Holiday Theatre.
  • The International Association of Blacks in Dance.

This marks the first time President Biden hosted the ceremony, although he did award a National Humanities Medal to Sir Elton John last year during a White House event celebrating the legendary singer, CNN reported. Tuesday’s ceremony was among several White House events that were postponed because of the pandemic.

Feliciano was not in attendance, per The 2021 National Humanities Medals were also presented during the ceremony.

“We’re a nation, a great nation, in large part because of the power of the arts and humanities. That’s stamped into the DNA of America,” Biden said during the ceremony, per CNN. “Today … (we) continue the legacy of awarding two of our nation’s highest honors to 23 extraordinary Americans.”

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