Songwriters Hall of Fame

Yes, there's a whole world of music out there besides Patty.

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Songwriters Hall of Fame

Postby Rob » Fri Jun 08, 2007 6:27 pm

Last night was the annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. I have had the great opportunity to work this show for five years, the last three as the writer. I love doing the show and working with a host of really talented and creative people who love music and love their jobs. It's a blast every year and this was no exception. It's certainly not as big and splashy as the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, but in a lot of ways it's better, because many ofthe people they induct are usually never really recognized in that way.

But anyway, this year’s inductees and honorees were:

Michael Masser, who wrote three of Whitney Houston’s colossal hits. Don Black, a famous lyricist who wrote for Broadway and penned several famous James Bond themes as well as Born Free. Irving Burgie, who wrote Day-O, Jamaica Farewell, and Island in the Sun. Jackson Browne, who we all know. And the writing team of Bobby Weinstein and Teddy Randazzo who wrote Goin Out of My Head for Little Anthony and the Imperials which sold like 100 gazillion copies. Honorees were John Legend, given the “Starlight Award” for young songwriters, Don Kirshner for Publishing, and Dolly Parton, who received the Johnny Mercer award for being, “a giant among giants.”

What strikes me about these shows is that even though many of the names are unknown to most people, their songwriting credits are amazing when you start researching them. Just a bunch of extremely talented people who are so honored to be recognized by their peers.

The music was great. One of the awards honors a “Towering Song.” This year it was Unchained Melody. At first, Shawn Colvin was signed on to appear, but she dropped out. Then they had Art Garfunkel lined up, but he had to bag, as well. So they got an R&B singer from LA named Ledisi (pronounced Lettuce-E). Wow. She knocked that song out of the ballpark. An incredible set of pipes and a really nice surprise.

Marc Cohn honored Jackson Browne and sang a beautiful version of Too Many Angels. Marilyn McCoo sang Masser's The Greatest Love of All, a song I truly detest even when sung by such a great artist. Lizz Wright, another amazing singer, sang a really beautiful rendition of Don Black's "Born Free." Little Anthony opened the show with "Goin Out of My Head" and for an older guy who was big in the late 50's, he sounded amazingly terrific and got a well-deserved standing ovation. John Legend performed Ordinary People and I really enjoyed that song. He’s got a certain something that really moves people. Neil Sedaka did Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (tell me about it, Neil) to honor Don Kirshner who was his publisher. Neil is certainly from a different era, but he brought the house down. He’s also an incredibly nice guy. A mensch, as we like to say. Finally, balancing Neil out, Idina Menzel sang Dolly’s I Will Always Love You and she, too, did an amazing job.

For the honorees, Jackson Browne performed Lives in the Balance and it was great. Dolly did 9 to 5 and was, simply put, Dolly. She is just as nice as can be. So gracious to everyone and she really means it. I don’t think there’s a mean bone in that body.

I think the best moment was when Irving Burgie accepted his award. He was very funny and very poignant. First off, he told the crowd he would not bore them with his life story but pointed out that his autobiography was in their gift bags. Initially he had requested to do a little karaoke from the stage but the producers did not think this was a great idea. But he decided to do it, anyway. So he led the crowd in doing some of Day-O and Jamaica Farewell. It was one of those magical moments you simply cannot script. A thousand people chanting “daylight come, and me wanna go home.” What was also so poignant was that his wife passed away just the week before, but he went on because he knew she would want him to. A very gracious and obviously talented man. Actually, Harry Belafonte’s album, Calypso, which Irving wrote most of, was the first album to sell a million copies.

And I know we all know the song Sugar, Sugar by the Archies. Well, the woman who sang on that song, Toni Wine, was one of the presenters for Don Kirshner. I spent quite a bit of time with her and she is an amazing repository of music knowledge and history. As well as writing some well-known tunes, such as Tony Orlando and Dawn's hit, Candida, she worked with Kirshner when Carole King and Gerry Goffin and Neil Sedaka and a bunch of others were just young kids churning out all these song which have become so famous. She said they all had little cubicles with a stand up piano, a table and a chair and that was it. Just hearing her talk about it was so amazing. No cut throat competitions… they all played off each other and sang on each other’s demos and all that. Toni is on tour now with Tony Orlando who was also there last evening. So anyone need tickets to the Tony Orlando show, let me know. I’m certainly going at some point! Also, Toni is a big Patty fan. I was talking about Patty to someone else and she chimed in that she loved Patty’s work.

All in all, another great evening and I so look forward to doing it again next year. You’re all invited, of course.
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-- Nigel Tufnel
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