WASHINGTON (AFP) - Led Zeppelin, Dustin Hoffman and David Letterman were among seven performers honoured for their lifetime contribution to US culture at a glittering awards ceremony late Sunday that is the climax of Washington’s social calendar.

This years’s honourees of Washington’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts also included blues musician Buddy Guy and Russian-born ballerina Natalia Makarova.

While Led Zeppelin were honoured as a band, keyboardist/bassist John Paul Jones, guitarist Jimmy Page, and singer Robert Plant each received their medallions.

“With their extraordinary talent, creativity and tenacity, the seven 2012 Kennedy Center honourees have contributed significantly to the cultural life of our nation and the world,” said Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein.

The annual honours gala, which has become the highlight of the Washington cultural year, was attended by President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and other Washington and Hollywood dignitaries.

Earlier, the honourees were received at the White House by the president and first lady, who praised the center’s tradition of providing support to leading cultural figures around the world. In his remarks, Obama called it “a remarkable evening.” “And it speaks to something that has always made this country great - the idea that here in America, more than any other place on Earth, we are free to follow our own passions, explore our own gifts, wherever they may lead us,” he said.