NEW YORK – Gloria Estefan sang a medley of her hits, Post Malone sang one of his forgotten gems, Teddy Riley swayed to New Jack Swing and Jeff Lynne rocked out to “Mr. Blue Sky” at the Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony Thursday night.
The gala at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City celebrated a diverse group of songwriters, with Broadway represented by lyricist Tim Rice, pop from Glen Ballard and a Nashville twang from Liz Rose. Each inductee spoke about how important music was to them growing up and how it connected them to the past and future.
“To those fans that have found in my music what I found in the music of the life-changing songwriters that nourished my soul throughout my life, I thank you for that privilege," said Estefan, the first Hispanic woman to be inducted. "And I can assure you that it is just as magical from the other side of the song.”
Lynne, of the prog-rock Electric Light Orchestra, who worked with the Travelling Wilburys and Tom Petty, was the first to be honored, with guitarist Joe Walsh introducing his friend as a “a one-man Renaissance artist” and playing ELO's “Don't Bring Me Down.”
Lynne recalled a day in 1977 when he was in a Swiss chalet trying to write his next album but for weeks it had been dark and misty. Then he woke to the sun shining and blue sky. He soon wrote 14 songs, one of which was “Mr. Blue Sky," which he performed.
Rose recalled being a single, working mom with three children who turned to songwriting in her late 30s. She co-wrote many songs with Taylor Swift beginning when the singer-songwriter was 14, including “You Belong with Me,” “Teardrops on My Guitar” and “White Horse.” Rose doesn't sing or play an instrument and thanked all the artists.
“The cool thing about songwriting is that you get to hang out with your friends and you get to have therapy and you get to cry and drink wine and eat Cheez-Its,” Rose said. “I just love to dig in and just see that song come out at the end of the session. There’s just nothing like it.”
Broadway star Heather Headley introduced Rice and sang “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the musical he wrote with Andrew Lloyd Webber. Rice, who is already in the hall, was honored with the Johnny Mercer Award, the highest honor bestowed by the event.
Myles Frost, another Broadway star from the Michael Jackson musical “MJ," helped introduce Ballard, who helped write and produce Alanis Morissette’s monster 1995 album “Jagged Little Pill” and was involved in the recording and writing of several Jackson albums, including “Thriller,” “Bad” and “Dangerous.”
“The journey of a songwriter is quixotic and occasionally exotic. Never a straight line, but always serpentine," Ballard said. "I’ve been writing songs from age 4, not for money but because I had to.”
Doug E. Fresh and Keith Sweat inducted Riley, the singer, songwriter and producer credited with creating New Jack Swing, which fuses hip-hop, R&B, dance and pop, and its top anthems such as Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative.” The trio did a medley of hits that included “I Want Her,” “No Diggity” and “Rump Shaker.”
Producer Louis Bell introduced Malone, having met him when he was 19 in a recording studio: “Not only is he one of the most talented people I've ever had the pleasure of sharing a room with, more importantly he's also one of the purest, most beautiful souls I've ever met.”
Malone, 27, received the Hal David Starlight Award, given to “gifted young songwriters who are making a significant impact in the music industry.”
Malone thanked his baby and his fiancee, removed his suit jacket, picked up an acoustic guitar and played “Feeling Whitney,” a deep cut from first album “Stoney,” with the lyrics: “To each their own and find peace in knowin’/Ain’t always broken, but here’s to hopin.’"
“I'm sorry that I played a song that nobody knows,” he said to laughter.
The last performer of the night was Estefan, who is credited for popularizing Latin rhythms with such crossover smashes as “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” and “Let’s Get Loud.” I
“Music has saved my life,” she said.
Joined by her husband, Emilio, and 11-year-old grandson, Sasha, Estefan ended the night with a medley of songs that got people on their feet: “Reach,” “Words Get in the Way,” “Anything for You,” “Can’t Stay Away from You,” “Don’t Wanna Lose You,” “Let’s Get Loud” and “Rhythm Gonna Get You.”
Snoop Dogg, whose hits include “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and “Gin & Juice,” deferred his induction to next year. Sade also deferred her induction.
The Songwriters Hall of Fame was established in 1969 to honor those creating popular music. A songwriter with a notable catalog of songs qualifies for induction 20 years after the first commercial release of a song.
Some already in the hall include Carole King, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Brian Wilson, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Lionel Richie, Bill Withers, Neil Diamond and Phil Collins.
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