Berkshire singer-songwriter James Taylor is among 17 Americans, including Steven Spielberg and Barbra Streisand, to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
President Obama is scheduled to present the medals at a ceremony on Nov. 24. The award is designated for "individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the U.S., to world peace or to cultural or other significant public and private endeavors," according to the White House announcement.
"From public servants who helped us meet defining challenges of our time to artists who expanded our imaginations, from leaders who have made our union more perfect to athletes who have inspired millions of fans, these men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans," said Obama in a prepared statement.
"I still can't quite believe it," Taylor said in an e-mail message. "I'm still trying to get my head around the whole idea. Of course, I'm deeply grateful to have been chosen for this great honor."
Taylor, born in Boston and a resident in the town of Washington, has won five Grammy Awards and sold more than 100 million albums since his debut on vinyl in 1968. He has been named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame.
His first full-length studio release of original material in 13 years, Before This World, rose to the top of the Billboard chart last June, his first-ever No. 1 album.
He is a scheduled guest on CBS's "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" on Wednesday night at 11:35 p.m. and is also taping an appearance for NBC's "Christmas at Rockefeller Center" tree-lighting special to be televised on Wednesday, Dec. 2. He will also be featured on Oprah's Master Class on the OWN Network on Sunday, Nov. 29, at 8 p.m. He plans to share candid stories and life lessons from his career.
He has booked two landmark ballpark appearances for next summer, including a return to Fenway Park on Aug. 3 (tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday) and at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, on June 30. He will be joined by singer-songwriter Jackson Browne at both concerts.
Taylor is expected to perform twice at Tanglewood during the 2016 season, but scheduling will be announced at a later date.
Other recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom include baseball great Yogi Berra (posthumous); military veterans advocate Bonnie Carroll; Shirley Chisholm (posthumous), the first African-American woman elected to Congress in 1968; songwriter-producer Emilio Estefan; singer-songwriter and actor Gloria Estefan; Indian treaty rights advocate Billy Frank, Jr. (posthumous); former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, a specialist on international relations and national security; and NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, a pioneer in U.S. space history.
Also: Baseball legend Willie Mays; who became one of major league baseball's first African-American players in 1951; Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who became the longest-serving female U.S. Senator in 2011; star violinist Itzhak Perlman; former EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus; leading theater composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim; famed film director Steven Spielberg; singer-actor, songwriter; producer-director Barbra Streisand and Minoru Yasui (posthumous), a civil and human rights leader who challenged the constitutionality of a military curfew order during World War II on the grounds of racial discrimination, and spent nine months in solitary confinement during the subsequent legal battle.