WASHINGTON - British rock star Sting was the toast of Washington on Sunday as he was feted with fellow recipients of this year's Kennedy centre honours.
He took time off from his Broadway show "The Last Ship" to join Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, 1970s soul man Al Green, comedienne Lily Tomlin and ballerina Patricia McBride at a gala ceremony in the US capital.
"I feel very happy in my trophy," Sting told AFP on the red carpet going into the soiree, pointing to the rainbow-coloured laurel draped around his neck.
"I'm not sure when I'll wear it again, but I think I look rather fetching in it," he quipped.
"It's still pretty overwhelming. I'm dealing with it quite well."
Bestowed by the nation's premier performing arts centre, the Kennedy centre honours are regarded as the highest recognition of cultural achievement in the United States.
Sting is the eighth British rock and pop musician to receive a Kennedy Centre Honour.
Others include Elton John, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend from The Who, Paul McCartney and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.
This year's honourees were all smiles and laughter as they took their balcony places alongside President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in the Kennedy Centre's vast opera house.
First to be honoured was Green, with Earth, Wind and Fire putting the black-tie crowd in a soul-swinging groove, Usher crooning "Let's Stay Together" and a huge chorus backing Mavis Staples and Sam Moore on "Take Me To The River."
Earlier, on the red carpet, Green - an ordained pastor in Memphis, Tennessee who branched out into gospel music in the 1980s - said the honour was merely a milestone in a career that is still unfolding.
"They give me all these great accolades and then they tell you, 'Alright, go out and earn it'," he said. "So we gotta keep writing and keep making songs."
"Soul music is alive and well. You'll never get rid soul music. It's in here," added Green, playfully poking the heart of an AFP reporter before breaking into a few lines of Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long."
TV satirist Stephen Colbert, making his debut as a Kennedy Centre Honours emcee, ironically dubbed the event "the only awards ceremony in America that does not feature Taylor Swift."
The three-hour gala is to be telecast in the United States on the CBS network Dec 30.