Hit writers’ night to shine
Nashville’s music industry got together Monday night to honor four of songwriting’s finest at the annual Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala at Music City Center. Aaron Barker, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Bob Morrison and Townes Van Zandt were inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, bringing the total number of honorees over the years to 203.
I was proud to sponsor the ‘Preshias Music Family’ table at the Gala and it was a pleasure to bring about a dozen young songwriters and singer-songwriters to join in the recognition of these great writers and to hear their amazing stories.
We took a ‘photo opp’ just before we headed to our table. Pictured left-to-right are my ‘Class of 2016’: Nick Halsted, Bailey Callahan, Nick DeLeo, Lindsey Rebecca Harding, Carmen Mariea, Justin T. Dukes, Nikki Moore, Hannah Emerson, Anna Barrow, Courtney Bumbacher and Marie Mattei.
Here a few brief notes that, really, are far too brief to describe the achievements of the four Hall of Fame inductees:
It was a very special personal thrill for me to see Aaron receive the honor that is definitely his due. Aaron and I became friends when I joined BNA Records as an intern and he was a recording artist with the label. It was my first job in the music industry and Aaron was so gracious and helpful to this newbie!
The first of Aaron’s songs to be recorded was “Baby Blue” that was a Number One hit for George Strait in 1988. Not a bad start to a long career that included “Love Without End” (another George Strait chart-topper) and many more hits. In his acceptance speech, he encouraged young writers – like those seated at my table – to take advantage of opportunities to write with veteran songwriters, combining “the words and rhythms of today” with the experience that older writers can provide. More about Aaron here.
Speaking of songwriters with many years of success, Bob Morrison was recognized with his award as a ‘veteran songwriter.’ Among Bob’s huge hits: “You Decorated My Life” for Kenny Rogers, and “Whiskey if You Were a Woman” – co-written with Johnny MacRae and my great friend Mary W. Francis – for Highway 101.
In a long career, Bob has penned chartbusters for acts as diverse as Johnny Lee (“Lookin’ For Love”) and The Oak Ridge Boys (“You’re the One”). A list of Bob’s songs can be found here.
Beth Nielsen Chapman
It was inspiring to hear Beth talk of the time when she almost gave up on her dream of being a singer-songwriter after her debut album flopped. She was performing at a hotel in Alabama and Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys was in the audience. He kept asking to hear another and another of her songs. Beth said that his encouragement reset her career compass.
Beth’s story is a life-lesson for fledgling songwriters who feel that they should just throw in the towel when in fact success could be just around the corner. She went on to create such iconic songs as “This Kiss,” a monster hit for Faith Hill as well as songs recorded by Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Lorrie Morgan, Alabama and many more. Click here for Beth’s website.
Townes Van Zandt
The award to Townes Van Zandt was presented posthumously: he passed away on New Year’s Day 1997 at the age of 53. The award was accepted by his daughter, Katie. His biggest hit was “Pancho and Lefty,” recorded by Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, and he wrote “If I Needed You” a hit for Don Williams and EmmyLou Harris. Van Zandt was regarded as a mentor and an inspiration to a generation of writers who followed in his wake. More about Townes Van Zandt here.
The evening was crammed with amazing performances by artists such as Olivia Newton-John, Kim Carnes, The Indigo Girls, Mac Davis, Phil Vassar, Mo Pitney and many more. Additionally, the Nashville Songwriters Association International was on hand to name the ten songs from the past year that NSAI members had voted on as “Songs I Wish I’d Written.” For a list of those songs, see a story posted at CMT’s website.
An amazing evening and, for the budding songwriters at my table, an inspiration for what might lie ahead in their own careers.