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Songwriters Sing Out Strong

It was rock and roll heaven here on earth as music legends gathered for the 31st annual Songwriters Hall of Fame.

This year's inductees were "Godfather of Soul" James Brown, Eagles bandmates Don Henley and Glenn Frey, folksinger James Taylor, Brian Wilson of the Beachboys, and posthumously, rhythm and blues singer-songwriter Curtis Mayfield.

Henley and Frey were unable to attend Thursday's ceremonies but those on hand got an added dose of musical starpower with the surprise appearance of Paul McCartney, who was introduced as "the world's biggest Beach Boys fan."


Reuters Photo
A hug for Brian Wilson
from Paul McCartney.

The ex-Beatle, who was previously inducted into the Hall of Fame along with John Lennon, had high praise for Brian Wilson. McCartney told Wilson that his Beach Boys songs, especially the ones from the 1960s, have the power to make him cry and Wilson is "one of the only artists" who can do that.

CBS News Reporter Dia Stein says Wilson found out about the McCartney surprise appearance just an hour before the show and was "flabbergasted" by the honor.

Stein, who has been to numerous awards events, notes that the songwriters ceremonies were a little different, as the celebrities there seemed "genuinely impressed to be around each other...in awe...admiring each other's craft, the basic tunesmith skills."


Reuters Photo
Carole King and James
Taylor

Wilson made it clear that the tribute from his colleagues is appreciated. "I spent my life writing songs...you're telling me that it was a life well-spent," said Wilson, calling the Hall of Fame induction "the greatest honor" of his life.

Many of the songwriters being honored talked about the event being important because it was about the songs themselves, and not the record, the CD, or the amount of money that was made.

McCartney waxed philosophical on the importance of song in the human experience, saying for important song has been in his own life, for example, when he was in a bad mood, or, just had a headache.


Reuters Photo
James Brown (left) received
his award from Sean
Puff Daddy Combs.

James Taylor picked up the same theme, musing on the universality of songs and music, half-joking that "a major 7th chod will make trees happy," interrupting his own observation with a reprimand that he was getting "really cosmic."

Isaac Hayes, who sang the songs in the original Shaft movie score written by Curtis Mayfield, presented Mayfield's award to the composer's widow, Altheida, and his daughter.

Mayfield's classic anthem, People Get Ready, was performed by Brian McKnight.


Reuters Photo
Neil Diamond got his award
from actress Kim Catrall.

Other honorees included Neil Diamond, who won the Lifetime Achievement Award; Johnny Mathis, who won the Hitmaker Award; Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who won the Johnny Mercer Award; Jimmie Davis, who won a Towering Song Award for You Are My Sunshine; and Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons, who won a Towering Song Award for All of Me.

Other performances included James Brown, singing Papa's Got a Brand New Bag (I Feel Good); Bobby Womack, doing a medley of James Brown hits; Carole King, honoring James Taylor by singing his Shower the People; Hanson, singing the California surfer favorite God Only Knows; Aaron Neville, with a medley of Johnny Mathis' Chances Are, Misty, and Arianne; JD Souther, who co-wrote with Henley and Frey of The Eagles, doing Best of My Love; Jill Sobule, singing I'm a Believer, the Monkees' hit written by Neil Diamond; and the entire group of inductees, award winners, and presenters joining for a double-header finale singing Stand By Me and Kansas City.

By Francie Grace ©2000, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved

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