Oklahoma natives Garth Brooks and Leon Russell were among the honorees Thursday night at the 2011 Songwriters Hall of Fame 42nd Anniversary Induction and Awards Dinner, where the hall of fame’s chairman Jimmy Webb, who hails from Elk City, and President/CEO Linda Moran celebrated some of the key songwriting legends of our time.
Along with Brooks and Russell, John Bettis, Billy Steinberg & Tom Kelly and Allen Toussaint were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame at the New York City gala. Honored with special awards were Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who were presented the Johnny Mercer Award; Drake, who received the Hal David Starlight Award; the legendary Chaka Khan who received the Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award; Ervin Drake, who was presented the Towering Song Award for “It Was A Very Good Year;” and former hall of fame Chairman Emeritus Hal David, who received the first ever Visionary Leadership Award.
Some of the 2011 event’s most memorable moments featured Oklahomans: Garth Brooks and Billy Joel’s unforgettable duet of “Shameless,” in matching black cowboy hats, Leon Russell on piano with “A Song for You” and Garth’s wife Trisha Yearwood’s beautiful medley tribute to Hal David, including “What The World Needs Now.”
In addition, legendary songwriting partners Billy Steinberg & Tom Kelly performed their iconic “Like A Virgin,” Chaka Khan gave a powerhouse performance of “I’m Every Woman,” and the talented Chrissie Hynde captivated the crowd with “I’ll Stand By You.” Hip-hop sensation Drake performed, “The Calm,” off a mixtape for the first time at an award show or event, and in honor of John Bettis, Skyler Grey performed “Human Nature” on a dulcimer. The interesting pairing of Sam Moore and Bill Medley brought the crowd to its feet with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”
The Johnny Mercer Award, which is the highest honor from the Songwriters Hall of Fame as only previous inductees can be eligible, was presented to Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Throughout the past four decades, the melodies of Mann and the lyrics of Weil have comprised one of the most successful songwriting teams in history. Their body of work is so significant that it is often described as “a soundtrack to our lives.” Weil dedicated their award to “every songwriter facing 88 keys and a blank page” and recognized that receiving the Johnny Mercer Award is the consummate honor for a lyricist. The husband-and-wife team have written legendary songs such as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” (with Phil Spector), “On Broadway” (with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller), “Walking In The Rain,” “Soul And Inspiration,” “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” and the Grammy-nominated “Don’t Know Much” (with Tom Snow) to name just a few.
This year’s Hal David Starlight Award, given to gifted songwriters who are making significant impact in the music industry via their original songs, was presented to Drake by Jimmy Jam. Drake is one of music’s brightest new stars lauded for his songwriting prowess, melodious hooks and emotionally transparent performances. Drake dedicated the award to his mother, Sandi Graham, calling her the strongest person he knows.
The legendary Chaka Khan was this year’s recipient of the Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award, presented by Valerie Simpson. Music icon Khan, recognized for her all-powerful lungs, show stopping stage presence and fearless style thanked all of the amazing songwriters that have given her “her voice.” The soul singer-songwriter has won 10 Grammys and countless other awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award from both BET and the World Music Awards, as well as the prestigious UNCF Award of Excellence for her outstanding accomplishments in the music industry. Khan created some of the industry’s biggest hits, such as “I’m Every Woman,” “Papillon,” “What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me?” and “I Feel For You.”
This year’s Towering Song Award for “It Was A Very Good Year” was presented to Ervin Drake, and performed by actor/songwriter Dominic Chianese. The song was originally recorded by Bob Shane of The Kingston Trio in 1961, but it was Frank Sinatra’s rendition in 1965 that made the song legendary with his Grammy Award-winning version in D-minor. “It Was A Very Good Year,” has been recorded by many artists such as Oklahoma City-based rockers The Flaming Lips, Don McLean, Richie Havens, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Lou Rawls, Eartha Kitt, Robbie Williams and Ray Charles as a duet with Willie Nelson.
Hal David was the recipient of the first ever Visionary Leadership Award for his outstanding 10 years of service as the Songwriting Hall of Fame’s chairman and CEO. During his chairmanship, the hall of fame’s Virtual Museum (Songhall.org) developed into the industry’s most authoritative website on songwriters and songwriting, becoming a comprehensive research tool with more than 250,000 records of data and over 10,000 pages of content that includes photos, discographies, audio clips and more. With David at the helm, the Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Dinner has become one of the most anticipated events on the music industry calendar. Along with his extraordinary service to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, David is a legendary and Academy Award-winning lyricist. He was inducted into the hall of fame in 1972, was honored with the Johnny Mercer Award in 1996 and the Towering Song Award for his iconic song “What The World Needs Now” in 2004.