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Last night, it was all about the songs.
Ray Davies, Donovan, Graham Gouldman, Mark James and Jim Weatherly were all inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on Thursday night at the organization’s 45th Annual Induction and Awards Dinner at the New York Marriott Marquis. SHOF chairman Jimmy Webb and president/ceo Linda Moran also honored Philly soul giants Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff with the Johnny Mercer Award, Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds with the Hal David Starlight Award; Sony Music chairman/ceo Doug Morris with the Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award and outgoing BMI president Del Bryant with the Visionary Leadership Award. “Over the Rainbow,” written by Hall of Famers Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, received the 2014 Towering Song Award.
The night kicked off with a celebration of the ASCAP Centennial, the house band performing a medley of classics, including “Yesterday,” “Kashmir,” “Stir It Up,” “Purple Haze,” “Born In The USA,” “Superstition,” “Flashdance What a Feeling,” “Just the Way You Are,” “Little Red Corvette,” “With or Without You, and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”
The ubiquitous Aloe Blacc performed his Avicii smash, “Wake Me Up,” followed by two Chita Rivera songs from West Side Story, “A Boy Like That” and “America,” as well as Chubby Checker’s immortal “Let’s Twist Again.”
Morris was presented the Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award, named after one of the SHOF’s founders, and specifically tailored for an artist or “star maker” in the music industry who has been responsible for a substantial number of hit songs for an extended period, by good friend, Jimmy Iovine. Emerging country star Camaron “Cam” Ochs then entertained the crowd with a rendition of her “Burning House.”
After receiving the Hal David Starlight Award, presented to young songwriters who are making a significant impact in the music industry with their original songs, from Webb, Imagine Dragons’ Reynolds performed his smash hit, “Radioactive,” continuing the band’s huge year.
Donovan took the stage to a standing ovation, and was inducted by Ralph Peer, who discovered the Scottish singer-songwriter in 1964. Donovan performed “Sunshine Superman” and “Catch the Wind” with Rosanne Cash.
American Idol season 12 winner Candice Glover gave a striking performance of Jim Weatherly’s “Midnight Train to Georgia” before inducting the songwriter, who then performed “Neither One of Us.” The songwriter and former college quarterback said he “never dreamed he would be inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.”
A Great Big World then covered 10cc member Gouldman’s “I’m Not In Love.” The band inducted the singer-songwriter, who said “it is an honor to receive such a prestigious and coveted award” before performing “Bus Stop,” originally covered by the Hollies. Goudlman’s hits include “For Your Love” (Yardbirds), “No Milk Today” (Herman’s Hermits) and the Hollies’ first U.S. Top 40 entry, “Look Through Any Window.”
The 2014 Towering Song Award, presented to the creators of an individual song that has influenced our culture in a unique way over many years, was awarded to “Over the Rainbow,” which was performed by young phenom Jackie Evancho, who presented the honor to Sony/ATV’s Marty Bandier.
Martina McBride inducted Mark James and gave a soulful performance of his chart-topping hit “Suspicious Minds.” After thanking music legends such as Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson for recording his songs, Mark performed a medley of his hits “Eyes of a New York Woman,” “Always on My Mind” and “Hooked on a Feeling.”
The Johnny Mercer Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Songwriters Hall of Fame, was awarded this year to Philly International songwriting duo, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. During their acceptance speech, Huff said, “When we met it was an explosion — we went on a creative rampage.” Miguel gave a stirring read of their classic, “Me & Mrs. Jones.”
Rosanne Cash visibly choked up as she presented the Visionary Leadership Award to BMI president Del R. Bryant. The award acknowledges a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame Board of Directors who has made a significant contribution in furthering the ongoing mission of the organization.
The night came to a close with a video acceptance from inductee Ray Davies, who said he is still “astounded by the way songs connect people,” followed by Jon Bon Jovi’s climactic performance of his hits “Celluloid Heroes,” “Better Things,” “Low Budget” and “All Day and All of the Night,” the latter bringing the evening’s festivities to a rocking close.
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