Two of Classic Motown’s most beloved superstars have been honored. William “Smokey” Robinson was presented last night (Nov. 16) with the prestigious Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in Washington, D.C., on the same day that Diana Ross was announced as a recipient of the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She will receive her medal Nov. 22 from President Obama.
Smokey Robinson joins a list of celebrated songwriters who have been awarded the Gershwin prize, including Stevie Wonder, Carole King and Paul McCartney. “As the human being that he is, and one of the greatest songsmiths in the world,” said Motown founder Berry Gordy of Robinson’s “extremely important” recognition, “he could take simple ideas and make them so extraordinary and beautiful.”
Diana Ross, as the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, follows in the footsteps of Stevie Wonder, who was presented with that honor by President Obama two years ago. The medal is given to “individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to…cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
President and Michelle Obama have celebrated Motown’s stars and music at the White House on previous occasions. At the Gershwin prize ceremony Nov. 16 for Smokey Robinson at the DAR Constitution Hall, guests included senators and congressmen, while performers celebrating his achievements in song included CeeLo Green, Corrine Bailey Rae, JoJo and Esperanza Spalding. Berry Gordy was present, and is expected to be at the White House for the Diana Ross presentation.