Eddie Holland Jr, Brian Holland, Berry Gordy and Lamont Dozier
New York, N.Y. – June 19, 2009 – The 2009 Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) 40th Anniversary Awards show was a dazzling success, as SHOF Chairman/CEO Hal David and President Linda Moran recognized and celebrated some of the key songwriting icons of popular culture. Last night, heavyweights Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora; Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati (The Young Rascals); Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway; Crosby, Stills & Nash; Galt MacDermot, James Rado and Gerome Ragni (deceased); and Stephen Schwartz were inducted into its hallowed Hall. Honored with special awards were Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland of Holland-Dozier-Holland, who were presented with the esteemed Johnny Mercer Award; Andy Williams, who was presented with the Towering Performance Award; Jason Mraz, who received The Hal David Starlight Award; Sir Tom Jones, who was presented with The Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award and Maxyne Lang , who was honored with The Abe Olman Publisher Award. The Towering Song this year went to “Moon River,” which Williams sang with heart, reminding the sold out crowd why he claimed it for his own back in 1962, where he first performed it at that year’s Academy Awards.
The Songwriters Hall of Fame is always a night full of once-in-a-lifetime, not-to-be-missed, special moments and the 2009 40th anniversary gala was another winner. Inductees Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora were presented with their prestigious award by platinum-selling singer-songwriter-guitarist Chris Daughtry, who performed a rocking rendition of “I’ll Be There For You,” followed by Bon Jovi and Sambora wowing the crowd with a performance of their mega hit “Wanted,” who responded in kind with a standing ovation. Grammy-nominated artist and songwriter in demand, Ryan Tedder, impressed the crowd with his soaring take on The Young Rascals’ “It’s A Beautiful Morning,” as he presented Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati with their induction award into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Country star Clint Black presented to inductees Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, and performed for them one of their iconic hits – “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” – covered by Black on his 2008 digital EP, Long Cool Woman. Timeless and iconic folk rock powerhouse Crosby, Stills & Nash were presented their induction award by another folk rock icon, James Taylor, who serenaded the rapt audience with a classic CSN medley that took everyone back in time. The gems included “Love The One You’re With,” “Long Time Gone” and “Teach Your Children.”
The undeniable talent that has emanated from Broadway was further represented with the induction of Stephen Schwartz, who penned the music for such Broadway mega hits as Godspell, Pippin, Wicked, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pocahontas. Schwartz was inducted by John Ondrasik, who debuted a new Schwartz/Ondrasik song “Slice.” Stephen then kept the crowd moving with his performance of “For Good,” from Wicked.
The Johnny Mercer Award, the highest honor from SHOF as only previous inductees can be eligible, was presented to Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, Jr. of Holland-Dozier-Holland, the unmistakable songwriting powerhouse that created the Motown Sound, writing 13 consecutive #1 records with the Supremes alone, in addition to all the hits they composed for the Four Tops, Martha & the Vandelas and Marvin Gaye, among others. Bebe Winans honored the songwriters with a soulful rendition of “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Then, Holland-Dozier-Holland were aptly presented their award by their mentor, Motown founder and industry icon, Berry Gordy. “FDR, LBJ, JFK, and then you have H-D-H,” Gordy said. “You know you’ve made it when people know you by your initials, and with what these guys have given to popular culture, they deserve to be in that company.”
This year’s Hal David Starlight Award, given to gifted songwriters who are making a significant impact in the music industry via their original songs, came full circle with recipient Jason Mraz being presented it by the inaugural Starlight Award winner, Rob Thomas. “I hate this guy,” Thomas joked. “He’s too damn good. We need him to step back from the curb so we can all look better.” Jason then sang an infectious “I’m Yours” from his repertoire to a very appreciative crowd.
Sir Tom Jones was this year’s recipient of the Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award, which is specifically tailored for artists or “star makers” in the music industry who have been responsible for a substantial number of hit songs for an extended period of time. Sir Tom’s five decade career of hits, selling over 100 million records, more than fits the bill. Inducted last night by American Idol’s Kara DioGuardi, Jones performed a favorite chestnut from 1966, “Green Green Grass” and then rocked the crowd with his iconic tune, “It’s Not Unusual.”
This year’s Towering Song, “Moon River,” written by SHOF co-founder and great American songwriter, the late Johnny Mercer (lyrics), who would have turned 100 this year, and the versatile and celebrated Henry Mancini (music) captured the hearts of Americans when it was first performed by Audrey Hepburn in her 1961 blockbuster classic, Breakfast At Tiffany’s. But when extraordinary crooner and national treasure Andy Williams sang it at the 1962 Academy Awards ceremony, where it won an Oscar for “Best Original Song,” “Moon River” became his for life. Williams accepted the honor to that claim last night, taking home the Towering Performance Award, only the second time SHOF has presented this award in its history. In his acceptance speech, Williams reminded the audience how important the song is to the career of the singer.
Maxyne Lang, president of the prestigious and highly successful independent publishing company Williamson Music and Williamson Music International, the global publishing divisions of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, was the recipient of the Abe Olman Publisher Award this year. Country artist Joe Nichols, who will be starring in Pure Country on Broadway in November, presented her with the award and sang a beautiful rendition of “If I Loved You,” a Rodgers & Hammerstein song. Lang has championed the music of not only the Rodgers & Hammerstein catalog she oversees, but this year’s inductee Stephen Schwartz, the Broadway blockbusters In The Heights, Legally Blonde, Grey Gardens and Avenue Q, among others. Current musical artists who have celebrated the Williamson Music catalogue include Gwen Stefani, Outkast, Twisted Sister and others.
With the Broadway revival of Hair having just garnered the Tony Award for “Best Revival of a Musical,” inductees and Hair composers Galt MacDermot, James Rado and Erick Ragni, son of Gerome Ragni who was there in spirit for sure, had a lot to celebrate. Cousin Bruce Morrow presented them with their induction award and Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., of the legendary Fifth Dimension, celebrated the infectious and timeless music of the three with a soaring rendition of the songs they took to the top of the charts in the 70’s – “Aquarius” and “Let The Sunshine In.” As a grand finale, cast members of the current Broadway revival exploded onto the stage and joined hundreds of audience members in singing the timeless hit.
The 40th anniversary year for the Songwriters Hall of Fame was truly a phenomenal celebration of not only the organization who has dedicated itself to championing the songwriter, but to each of the industry titans it honored this year and all they have contributed to our popular culture. For those lucky enough to attend, it was a night one won’t quickly forget.
For further information, photos and videos of the event, go to SongHall.org.
Photo#1 (from left to right) Jon Bon Jovi, Sir Tom Jones and Richie Sambora
Photo #2: Eddie Holland Jr, Brian Holland, Berry Gordy and Lamont Dozier
Photo #3: Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and David Crosby
Photo #4: Jason Mraz and Rob Thomas