TV veteran Norman Lear to receive 2017 Woody Guthrie Prize in L.A.

Television producer, writer and social activist Norman Lear will receive the Woody Guthrie Prize, which is awarded annually to an artist who “best exemplifies the spirit and life work of the Oklahoma singer, songwriter and folk music provocateur.”

Lear will receive the award at a ceremony May 12 at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, at which he also will take part in a question-and-answer session with Guthrie scholar and museum Executive Director Robert Santelli.

The Woody Guthrie Prize is bestowed by the Tulsa, Okla.-based Woody Guthrie Center and was created to recognize artists who are “speaking for the less fortunate through music, film, literature, dance or other art forms and serving as a positive force for social change in America.”

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Following previous recipients Pete Seeger, Mavis Staples and Kris Kristofferson, Lear is the first non-musician to be chosen for the prize.

“Norman Lear’s work as a television writer and producer broke barriers and challenged accepted social norms,” the center’s executive director, Deana McCloud, said in a statement. “An outspoken supporter of the 1st Amendment, his work as a political activist follows in Woody’s footsteps by promoting diversity and equality.”

Lear brought social and political issues into living rooms across the country during the 1970s and ’80s through such groundbreaking situation comedies as “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” “Maude” and “Sanford and Son.”

“Norman Lear has held up a mirror to American society and changed the way we look at it,” President Bill Clinton said in 1999 when Lear was presented the National Medal of Arts.

Lear also has received four Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award, and in 1981 formed People for the American Way, a social activist organization.

randy.lewis@latimes.com

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