2011 SongHall Induction

Last week I had the incredible opportunity to attend the 42nd Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction Gala, thanks to my friends Jason Kingston and Peter Bliss. Here's a rundown of the night - a bit more in-depth than my twitter posts:

The event was held at the Marriot Marquis Broadway Ballroom in Times Square, and my ticket was for the balcony. I arrived around 7:30 after grabbing a hot dog and failing to find a street vendor with any knish. Sad day. I met fellow infamous "B Group" member Melvin Vasquez there, and we went in to find seats. Sadly, the way the seats were set up if you didn't get one of the first 3 in any row then you couldn't really see. But I was not to be detered. Luckily, I was able to finagle a seat that allowed me to see most of the stage, and practically all of it if I stood up (there was no one behind me). Then after some investigation I was able to procure a program for the event. Rock on. I snuck from my flask and prepared for the show.

After a brief welcoming introduction by SongHall Chairman Jimmy Webb, Billy Steinberg & Tom Kelly opened the show with a performance of their song, "Like A Virgin" (gee, who sings that?). They were then inducted by Pretenders lead singer Chrissie Hynde, who gave the crowd a fantastic version of "I'll Stand By You." This was the first of numerous times when I got chills. There are some serious people in this room.

Dwight Yoakam then came out and performed "Superstar," which was co-written by Leon Russell. Leon emerged with a white maine, sat down at the piano, and performed a beautiful rendition of "A Song For You." Afterwards he dedicated his award to his friends in the crowd who work to help him with his hearing problems, but who also work so hard to help hearing-imparred children receive the gift of sound.

Boz Scaggs inducted Allen Toussaint, and since I'm not really familiar with either of their work I'm not sure what song he performed first. However, the two of them did join together on a duet of "What Do You Want The Girl To Do." You know a song is great when you've never heard before it but can remember it the next day. I have some homework to do on them.

Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior from "The Sopranos") gave the Towering Song Award to "It Was A Very Good Year," an his performance of the song was impressive. Jimmy Jam presented the Hal David Starlight Award to Aubrey Graham from "Degrassi: The Next Generation"...I mean, Drake. He performed a song that I didn't know, and to be honest it's not really my thing, so let's move on.

Skylar Grey did a great medley rendition of "Crazy For You" and "Human Nature" to begin John Bettis' induction. I guarantee that he's written so many songs that you know. He was officially inducted by Paul Williams, then performed "Top of the World."

Trisha Yearwood performed a medley of Hal David songs including "Do You Know the Way To San Jose," "I'll Never Fall In Love Again," "What the World Needs Now," and more as he was given the first Visionary Leadership Award. Sam Moore & Bill Medley then gave the Johnny Mercer Award - the SongHall's highest honor - to Billy Mann & Cynthia Weil, and performed a fantastic duet of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." And let me tell you, when the band slammed into the chorus after the breakdown the place was absolutely electric. More chills. Sam and Bill were actually really funny with their back and forth bickering. They should take their act on the road. Valerie Simpson then presented the Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award to Chaka Khan, who performed a rousing version of "I'm Every Woman."

The night's last inductee was Garth Brooks, inducted by Billy Joel. Garth was incredibly humble at the award, especially since he confessed that he's never considered himself a songwriter. He gave a fantastic performance of "The Thunder Rolls," then invited BIlly back on stage for a show-closing performance of the Billy song that Garth took to the top of the country charts - "Shameless."

The show was about 2 and a half hours long, and afterward I ended up in the elevator with Valerie Simpson. Cool. Watch a short video about the induction here.

I never did find my knish.


The Red Carpet (It's the only picture I got. Sorry.)

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    © STEVE SCHULTZ