Billy Joel - photo by Michael Sherer
The 42nd annual Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame was held on June 16th at the imposing Marriott Marquis Hotel in the middle of Times Square. This year’s ceremony honored John Bettis, Garth Brooks, Leon Russell, Billy Steinberg & Tom Kelly and Allen Toussaint. Veteran songwriting team and married couple Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil received the Johnny Mercer Award. The “Towering Song” distinction was “It Was A Very Good Year,” given to composer and lyricist Ervin Drake. The Hal David Starlight Award was also presented to Drake. The Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award recipient was Chaka Khan, and the first-ever Visionary Leadership Award was presented to SHOF Chairman Emeritus Hal David.
It was the usual formal affair, with plenty of luminaries, movers and shakers in the grand ball room. The hosting Marriott is the largest in their formidable chain, and features a restaurant that gradually turns 360 degrees.
Performers for the concert were Ashford and Simpson, Sam Moore, Bill Medley, Boz Scaggs, Chrissie Hynde, Jimmy Jam Harris, Dwight Yoakam, Dominic Chianese, and Trisha Yearwood. As always, the concert segment was produced by Phil Ramone, who’s produced a string of records by Billy Joel, among many others. It was Joel that presented Garth Brooks with his award.
All in all, it was the usual festive and congratulatory scene that it has been since being established in ‘69. It was songwriter Johnny Mercer and music publishers Abe Olman and Howie Richmond that founded it.
Songwriting is, of course, at the core of all original music, and it’s an art that merits such an event. This is especially salient given that so much of the music of this era sounds too much alike and is much more of a producer’s medium than it was in the glorious years of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s from which this esteemed and eclectic gathering of talent was born.