D'Rivera recently received the biggest accolade of his career when he was among 10 United States citizens to receive the National Medal of the Arts presented by President Bush and his wife Laura in a ceremony in the Oval Office in November.
It is the highest honor for artistic excellence presented in the United States.
At the same time, D'Rivera was unveiling the release of his autobiography, "My Sax Life: A Memoir," which was published by Northwestern University Press.
Needless to say, the jazz superstar is enjoying life these days.
D'Rivera said he was floored when he received word he was being honored by the National Endowment of the Arts and was going to meet the president.
"I certainly didn't expect it," D'Rivera said. "I was surprised when they called me. It really was a shock, getting the top arts award in the country. It was a tremendous honor. I was really overwhelmed and didn't know what to do."
Others receiving the honor included Academy Award-winning actor Robert Duvall and country superstar Dolly Parton, along with famed trumpeter and Jazz at Lincoln Center artistic director Wynton Marsalis.
"These individuals and organization have all made significant and enduring contributions to the artistic life of our nation," said National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia. "Whether through pioneering film animation, writing memorable novels, championing jazz, or creating new dance styles, their work has transformed the ways we experience and appreciate the world."
The National Medal of Arts, established by Congress in 1984, is awarded by the president to those who have made extraordinary contributions to the creation, growth, and support of the arts in the United States.
'The Cuban boy isn't doing so bad'
D'Rivera said that three days after receiving the award, he received a gift from his friend, fellow music legend Yo-Yo Ma, the famed cellist who has performed and recorded with D'Rivera on several occasions.
"It was a bottle of Dom Perignon and the card said, 'The Cuban boy isn't doing so bad,'" D'Rivera laughed.
"I had no idea something like that could happen, receiving such an award like that from the President," D'Rivera said. "It was something out of my radius."
At the ceremony, D'Rivera said that he struck up a conversation with Duvall, and the two hit it off tremendously.
"I had met Robert Duvall before, but this time, we have remained in contact," D'Rivera said. "He's the first person I signed a copy of the book for. And he loved it. I told my wife Brenda that it was perfect timing, releasing the book and going to Washington."
It's not every day that an accomplished musician sits down and personally writes his memoirs, without the help of a ghostwriter.
However, unbeknown to most, D'Rivera has always been a writer - and frankly loves it.
"I've been a writer ever since I was a kid, which obviously is a very long time," said D'Rivera. "People tell me know that they're thrilled about my new career, but I've won awards for my writing."
D'Rivera had previously written a novel in Spanish entitled "All Havana" that was released a few years ago. He was inspired to write his memoirs after getting such high praise for the novel.
"It's funny, but going back to when I was younger, I would write letters all the time," D'Rivera said. "I'd put things down in a letter and then I'd sometimes inspire myself and laugh to myself that I was a good writer. I realized that I've had so many things happen in my life, so many stories to tell."
D'Rivera's life story is certainly compelling enough for an autobiography. He begins "My Sax Life" with stories of his father, who was a classical saxophone teacher and performer in Cuba.
He then continues with his own life as a musical child prodigy, performing in nightclubs as a youngster, performing with clowns and exotic dancers.
He talks about his quest to find artistic freedom in his native Cuba and defecting to the United States in 1980, beginning his legendary musical career.
In the book, D'Rivera tells stories of meeting his friends in the music business, like Yo-Yo Ma and Dizzy Gillespie. It's a fascinating journey, one that is filled with joy and humor and electricity, much like the man himself.
Book tour different from musical tour
D'Rivera said that he has been enjoying his book tour, which is far different than his experiences as a musician.
"I'm going to book fairs and book signings now," D'Rivera said. "I just got back from Miami and Chicago and never played a note. I'm liking the literary world now. It's something I don't know much about. I'm such a horrible businessman when it comes to book deals. I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm having so much fun as a writer."
While D'Rivera joked that he was writing a sequel to his latest release - "I'm calling it 'My Bi-Sax Life" - he is legitimately writing another book, entitled "Portraits and Landscapes," which features personal vignettes about people he has met over the years, including the great Dizzy Gillespie.
"It's my new hobby," D'Rivera said. "Writing is like a habit. You just keep going and going. I can't wait to finish it."