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Tom Petty did something at the ASCAP Pop Awards last night that he rarely does on the concert stage — he ad-libbed.
Songwriting, songwriters and artists, “is the job most people in the band don’t want. It’s long, lonely work — you sit there waiting for magic,” he told a full ballroom of music publishers at Loews Hollywood Hotel.
“My generation used it to speak to the world, to put in our two cents about the way the world should work and how we should be treated,” Petty continued. “Through my heroes, people like Jackson Browne and Bob Dylan, I learned what a good song might be.”
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Petty insisted he had never changed over his 40-year career. “I’m still just a shit kicker from Gainesville. I just have a lot nicer house,” he said.
Petty was honored with the ASCAP Founders Award at the 31st annual edition of the Pop Awards, which celebrated 2013’s most performed songs in the ASCAP repertory. Browne presented Petty with the award, praising him for “a defiance in his songs” and their “uncommon complexity and depth, an inspiration for rebels and lovers for all time.”
Lucinda Williams and her band performed a tribute to Petty and the Heartbreakers, playing slowed-down version of “Rebels” and a ragged run-through of “Running Down a Dream.”
STORY: ASCAP Taps Tom Petty for Founders Award
The Petty ceremony was in the middle of the festivities, separating the honors for songwriters and publishing companies. “Blurred Lines,” written by Clifford “‘T.I.” Harris, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, was named song of the year. Max Martin was songwriter of the year for “Beauty and a Beat,” “Daylight,” “Roar” and other hits, his fourth consecutive honor.
Publisher of the year honors wound up in a tie — 18 award-winning songs each — between Sony/ATV and Warner/Chappell. Dr. Luke‘s Prescription Songs was named independent publisher of the year. Fun. received the ASCAP Vanguard Award.
“For us it was always about being a band, not hits,” Fun. singer-songwriter Nate Ruess said. “To other artists (I say) don’t look at the charts. Make albums.”
Besides Williams, Aloe Blacc and Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger performed their hit for Avicii “Wake Me Up”; Greg Holden opened the show with the Phillip Phillips hit he co-wrote, “Home”; and Mary Lambert performed “She Keeps Me Warm.” Dr. Luke, Max Martin, Miguel and Zedd were among the honorees on hand to accept their awards.
To celebrate its centennial year, songs from ASCAP’s list of its 100 biggest hits were played between speeches and during walk-ups — Marvin Gaye‘s “Sexual Healing,” Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” among them.
And as much as the night is about copyrights, their protection and earnings, Petty reminded the crowd: “Let’s make money, but remember, the art and the truth is just a little more important.”
A complete list of winners is available at www.ascap.com/popawards
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.
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