"For the unique and extremely valuable contributions they have made to the cultural life of our nation," said Kennedy Center Chairman James A. Johnson, "we honor one of the most influential musicians of the last 50 years, a nationally treasured icon of television comedy, a singer whose name is synonymous with the heartbreak and joy of country music, an extraordinary director whose career has been equally brilliant in the theater and on film, and a classical superstar of unsurpassed artistic achievement."
The 2003 Kennedy Center Honors will be presented on Dec. 6 at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State Colin Powell. The honorees will be celebrated the following night at an all-star gala performance in the Kennedy Center's Opera House. President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush are scheduled to attend.
The Honors Gala will be broadcast on CBS for the 26th consecutive year as a two-hour prime time special in December.
Brown, a seminal figure in the crossover of R&B music to white audiences in the United States, is a two-time Grammy Award winner. He won for Best R&B Recording -- Best Rhythm & Blues Performance in 1965 for "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for the single "Living in America" in 1986. He's probably best known for his R&B anthem "I Got You (I Feel Good)."
Brown -- whose greatest hits also include "Night Train," "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" and "Cold Sweat" -- was also on the leading edge of black entrepeneurship, as a radio station owner during the 1960s.
Burnett, who rose from summer stock in 1952 to Broadway star in the 1959 musical "Once Upon a Mattress," became an American TV audience favorite in 1959 when she became a featured performer on "The Garry Moore Show."
She headlined "The Carol Burnett Show" from 1967-78, winning five Emmys -- two for outstanding performance and three for best variety show. In 1977, the Galup Poll named Burnett one of the 20 Most Admired Women in the World.
Burnett's dramatic acting was recognized in 1979 when she won a Peabody Award and an Emmy nomination for her performance in the TV movie "Friendly Fire," as a woman who runs into an official government stone wall as she tries to learn how her son died in Vietnam. She received Golden Globe nominations for her performances in the feature films "Annie," "The Four Seasons," "A Wedding" and "Pete 'n' Tillie."
Burnett has also been named Woman of the Year by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1985.
"As far as honors are concerned there are stars and then there are planets," said Burnett. "This is a planet. I'm delighted and shocked and thrilled with the company I'm in."
Burnett was particularly pleased to be on the list of honorees with Nichols, whom she has known since they both worked at the Blue Angel, a New York cabaret, in 1957.
Lynn is a country music icon whose best-selling autobiography "Coal Miner's Daughter" was made into the Oscar-nominated movie of the same name in 1980. She won a Grammy with her frequent singing partner, the late Conway Twitty, for the 1971 duet "After the Fire Is Gone."
A member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1961, Lynn became the first woman to be named Entertainer of the Year by both the Country Music Association (1972) and the Academy of Country Music (1975). She was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983, and into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988.
Lynn's country hits include "Don't Come Home a Drinkin'," "Coal Miner's Daughter" and "You're Looking at Country."
Nichols is one of a handful of performers who have won the entertainment industry's four major awards -- the Oscar, the Emmy, the Tony and the Grammy.
He won a Grammy in 1961 with his partner Elaine May for the comedy album "An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May." He won seven Tonys, including six for directing "Barefoot in the Park" (1964), "Luv" and "The Odd Couple" (1965), "Plaza Suite" (1968), "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" (1972) and "The Real Thing" (1984). He won in 1977 as a producer on the long-running hit "Annie."
Nichols was nominated for the directing Oscar for his first feature, the 1966 screen adaptation of Edweard Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf." He won two years later for "The Graduate." He was nominated for two other features, "Silkwood" and "Working Girl."
In 2001, Nichols won Emmys for directing and producing the HBO movie "Wit."
Perlman is an eight-time Grammy winner. He first won in 1977 for Best Classical Performance-Instrumental Soloist (with orchestra) for his recording of Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons." Perlman has also won Grammys for "The Spanish Album" (1980), "Elgar: Violin Con. In B Min." (1982), "Mozart: Violin Concertos Nos. 2 And 4" (1987), "Brahms: The Three Violin Sonatas" (1990), "Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1 In A Minor/Glazunov: Violin Concerto In A Minor" (1990), and "The American Album (Works Of Bernstein, Barber, Foss" (1995).
Brown, Burnett, Lynn, Nichols and Perlman join a list of Kennedy Center honorees that includes Julie Andrews, Chuck Berry, Sean Connery, Bill Cosby, Bob Dylan, Clint Eastwood, Quincy Jones, Willie Nelson, Jack Nicholson, Luciano Pavarotti and Stevie Wonder.
Simon's honor was announced after Kennedy Center officials said that Sir Paul McCartney -- whose name was originally on the list of honorees -- would not receive the honor last year due to a personal scheduling conflict. The announcement said that Simon had already been listed for a future honor, and that McCartney would receive a Kennedy Center Honor in 2003 instead -- but McCartney's name was absent from the list announced Tuesday.
A Kennedy Center spokesman told UPI, "Paul McCartney will not be recieving the Kennedy Center Honor."
The spokesman provided no other details.