The Songwriter’s Hall of Fame Gala 2009
On June 18, 2009, I celebrated my birthday doing what I love most in this world – enjoying music. The Songwriter’s Hall of Fame holds a gala to honor their inductees every year, and this year was no different. The 40th Annual induction ceremony was held in New York City, and I was lucky enough to be in attendance. The 2009 inductees included Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora; Crosby, Stills and Nash; Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway; Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati of The Young Rascals; Galt MacDermot, James Rado and Gerome Ragni and Stephen Schwartz. There were also going to be several special awards presented to Sir Tom Jones (Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award), Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland (Johnny Mercer Award), Jason Mraz (Hal David Starlight Award), and the Towering Song this year was “Moon River” to be performed by Andy Williams. The evening started off just right with famed disc jockey – Cousin Brucie! Believe it or not, he’s still playing his records over on satellite radio. The amount of historic music moments Brucie must have witnessed over the years, from introducing The Beatles at Shea Stadium to helping to introduce the world to Elvis Presley, the good ole cuz is definitely a legend in his own right.
Ryan Tedder was the first to take to the stage, with his rendition of “It’s a Beautiful Morning” the classic The Young Rascals tune. He then presented the induction to Eddie Brigati and Felix Cavaliere who performed, “People Got to Be Free” – it was such a fantastic performance. It’s unbelievable how those lyrics really hit home even now. I never realized the
power of that song. I think it was recorded in the late 60s, and you can certainly still feel the anguish of those times, but there’s also hope too.
John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting presented to inductee Stephen Schwartz. Schwartz was the man behind the music for notable Broadway shows like Godspell and Pippen, but I think he is most known for the musical Wicked. What a treat it was to hear Schwartz singing, “For Good” – of course, I couldn’t help but picture Elphaba and Glinda singing together.
It was Clint Black who presented to inductees Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway. Cook and Greenway had a great performance of their song, “You’ve Got Your Troubles”, originally recorded by The Fortunes.
Crosby, Stills and Nash were inducted by James Taylor. Taylor performed a classic acoustic medley of the Crosby, Stills and Nash tunes, “Love The One You’re With,” “Long Time Gone” and “Teach Your Children.”
The presentation of the Hal David Starlight Award was given by former Starlight Award winner, Rob Thomas. Thomas had a very tongue and cheek message for the award recipient, Jason Mraz. Thomas remarked, “Jason, you’re too good! You’re throwing off the curve for the rest of us!” Mraz delighted the shoulder dancers in the crowd (me being one of them!) with his hit, “I’m Yours”.
American Idol’s Kara DioGuardi presented Sir Tom Jones with his Hitmaker Award. Jones thanked Burt Bacharach for convincing him to record the song, “What’s New Pussycat?” He told the story of how when he was first approached to do the song, he thought it was the most ridiculous thing he ever heard. Thankfully for this fan, he decided to record the song! Sir Tom belted out one of his greatest hits, “It’s Not Unusual” which was revived in the 1900s by Carlton Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I was ready to jump up and do the Carlton dance, but alas, I didn’t think it would be socially acceptable, so I settled for some finger snapping and (more) shoulder dancing.
The highlight of the night for me was the presentation of the induction award to Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. Chris Daughtry gave a tribute performance of the Bon Jovi hit, “I’ll Be There for You” that left the crowd stunned. An absolutely amazing rendition of the song. Chris then presented the induction award to Jon and Richie. All the recipient speeches were very touching, but there was something about Richie’s speech that was so moving, it brought me to tears. The way he spoke about music, and how important songwriting is – but it was also the way he spoke about Jon, and how he considered them to be more than brother’s. – I think everyone in the room felt that raw emotion during Richie’s speech. Jon and Richie performed “Wanted Dead or Alive”, a song I’ve heard live more times than I can count, but there was something very special about this performance. I think everyone else felt it too, as they received a standing ovation at the end of the song.
Motown founder Berry Gordy presented the Johnny Mercer Award to Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, Jr. of Holland-Dozier-Holland, or HDH. HDH wrote songs for tons of Motown acts – from The Supremes, and the 4 Tops, to Marvin Gaye.
Hair composers Galt MacDermot, James Rado and Erick Ragni (the son of inductee Gerome Ragni) were presented their induction by Cousin Brucie, but the big finale came when my favorite Solid Gold host Marilyn McCoo and her husband Billy Davis Jr. took to the stage. Together they sang, “Aquarius” and “Let The Sunshine In”. At this point, I was standing at the back of the ballroom, there was no one that would
stop me from Solid Gold dancing to my Marilyn! While I was cutting a rug, suddenly there was a mass invasion of people on the stage. It was the cast of the latest Broadway revival of Hair. They danced on the stage, and then made their way into the audience – lots of fun, and a great way to close the show!
It was an incredible night for me. I was able to meet so many of great musicians, from so many different genres of music. My appreciation for the importance of songwriting has grown significantly. It’s such a rare talent, yet without it – our songs have no meaning. Cheers to the inductees and award winners – they TRULY deserve it!