Ray Davies, Donovan, Gamble and Huff and Graham Gouldman Among Those Inducted Into Songwriters Hall of Fame
Doug Morris, BMI's Del Bryant, Gamble & Huff, Imagine Dragons' Dan Reynolds also honored at 45th Annual Induction and Awards Dinner in New York.
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.
First Look at 'Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story' (Exclusive)
The songwriter and record producer’s children, Brett and Cassie Berns, are mounting a jukebox bio-musical on their late father’s life, hoping it will add to his legacy.
Brett and Cassie Berns never really knew their father. When label executive/songwriter/producer Bert Berns passed away from a heart attack after suffering ticker trouble his whole life, Brett was almost three and Cassie was 10 months. Their younger brother Russell was just two weeks old.
Now, in an effort to get to learn about their father and re-introduce him to a world that they feel has largely under-celebrated his legacy—which includes writing hits like “Twist and Shout” and “I Want Candy,” producing singles like “Under the Boardwalk” and “Brown-Eyed Girl,” and discovering artists like Van Morrison and Neil Diamond —Brett and Cassie are taking Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story to the stage, with performances Off-Broadway starting June 25.
“This is the greatest untold story in the history of rock ‘n’ roll,” says Brett, as he steals a moment out of rehearsal. “You couldn’t make this stuff up.”
The musical follows the artist’s life from age 30, when he spent time in Cuba “running guns for Castro” and “turning a whorehouse into a nightclub” to his return to New York and meteoric rise in the record business to his death at age 38. Playwright Daniel Goldfarb, who crafted the musical’s book around 26 selections from Berns’ catalog of hit songs, created a dramatic structure in which Brett and Cassie are actually a composite character: the fictionalized daughter Jessie Berns. The musical moves between past and present as Jessie tries to learn about the father she never knew. “It fulfills his desire to be known, to leave his mark,” Cassie says. And Brett and Cassie, who are the lead producers on the project, hope the show will cause the recording industry to take notice.
“Our goal is to get him recognized for his accomplishments by the industry he helped create,” Brett adds. “I would like to see him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. You can put that in bold! How can they leave out the guy who wrote “Twist and Shout,” “Piece of My Heart,’ ‘Hang on Sloopy,’ ‘I Want Candy,’ ‘Tell Him,’ ‘Here Comes the Night,” “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” “Cry to Me,” “Cry Baby”—if he’d only written three of those songs, he should have been in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.”
“We had to do it,” Cassie adds.
The show will open at Signature Theatre in New York City, after it had developmental readings at New York Theatre Workshop and New York Stage and Film. Though the show is not a part of the Tony-winning non-profit theater’s regular season; they are renting out the space as a commercial run hoping it leads to Broadway and international productions.
“That’s the goal: Broadway and beyond,” Brett says. “There was early interest in this show from the U.K. We’ve already had interest from Japanese producers. This show has the potential to be the kind of juggernaut that Jersey Boys and shows like that have become.”
However, do they worry that there has become fatigue from so many bio-musicals recently? “After watching this last season where shows like After Midnight and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical did so well, I think this is what people want,” Brett adds. “Our show is really not that. It feels more like a classic book musical, more like West Side Story than Jersey Boys.”
The musical is part of a large, admittedly organized, push to get Berns’ story told. Veteran San Francisco rock journalist Joel Selvin’s biography Here Comes the Night hit shelves in April, and Brett is also directing a documentary, Bang: The Bert Berns Story, which features major figures from the artist’s life, including Paul McCartney, Solomon Burke and Ben E. King. A release date has not been announced, though Brett reveals that they’re in talks with “major producers and networks” about the project. Cassie also shares that, with this resurgence of Berns’ story, “Hollywood has come calling,” and they’re in talks to work on a film. However, theater became the first place because of the immediacy of the audience connection.
“Theater is the ultimate art form, and in the theater we were able to combine all the elements of his incredible music and incredible life story,” says Brett. “We could never have done that in a tribute album, a movie or a documentary. On the stage, we brought our father back to life.”
Janelle Monáe brings Bonnaroo crowd alive
Photo by Wade Payne/Invision/AP
Janelle Monae performs at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival on Friday, June 13, 2014, in Manchester, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne/Invision/AP)
In the four years since her debut album, Janelle Monáe has turned herself into a living, breathing brand with music blog buzz, massive sponsorship deals and collaborations with icons like Prince.
On Friday evening, a crowd of thousands was definitely buying into Monáe's unique brand of sci-fi themed and rock-infused R&B.
She tore through her hour-long set rarely stopping for chit-chat — though she did escape to the side of the stage for two unexplained breaks.
When she did address the crowd, it was frequently to conduct their singalong parts to her familiar singles like "Cold War" and "Dance Apocalyptic."
Janelle Monae performs onstage at What Stage during day 2 of the 2014 Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival on June 13, 2014 in Manchester, Tennessee.
Janelle Monae performs onstage at What Stage during day 2 of the 2014 Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival on June 13, 2014 in Manchester, Tennessee.
About Janelle Monáe
At long last, Janelle Monae -- the inimitable, award-winning, songwriter, performer, producer, CoverGirl and avant-garde funkstress -- is back again, ready to release her another full-length "emotion picture" to the masses. But as always, Janelle is not ready to talk about music just yet. She'd rather talk about her past and how those fertile powerful experiences forced her to create her coming album "The Electric Lady."
According to Monae, "I went back to Kansas City after my tour for my debut album 'The ArchAndroid.' And when I looked around me, I decided I wanted to make a raw, revealing album all about my life and the things I'd experienced in my community -- about the laughter in the parks, the jams bumping in the cars, the jokes told over kitchen tables, all the life and warmth and struggles I felt there. But I also wanted to figure out how to take Kansas City to the future...like a surreal Parliament album with lyrics by Octavia Butler and album art by Salvador Dali."
As time passed, Monae found herself increasingly drawn to the stories and experiences of the strong women in her life, and their ability to electrify and inspire individuals to do the right thing. "At some point I realized that the true heart and glue of the community were the women. My mama and grandmamma and my aunties and who to this day, are some of the most powerful beings on the planet. Under their guidance, I went from cleaning houses everyday in my maid outfit to the world-traveling performer I am today. They made me believe in myself enough to move from Kansas and pursue my dreams. A lot of folks think I work hard onstage because of James Brown. But they've never met my mother!"
Inspired by her mother and other matriarchs, Monae began to write lyrics and songs about rebel women who refused to be marginalized and dared to live their life boldly and unapologetically in a distant future. According to Monae, "When I returned to the studio, I felt I had to do my part. Through my art, I had to help create the woman I wanted to see around me. Incidentally, during concerts, for years I'd been painting this woman's physique -- the silhouette of her hips -
I have hundreds of these paintings with the same feminine figure over and over...this glowing Technicolor woman...seen from behind...regal, powerful and electric...My colleagues and friends told me to name this mysterious figure because she seemed to be a totem, a powerful symbol for me. So I named her 'The Electric Lady,' and that's where the album's title came from."
As she began the audacious task of following up on her acclaimed debut LP "The ArchAndroid" -- an album that topped critic's lists in 2010 all over the world -- she took along some trusty, brave companions: the original music producers of "The ArchAndroid," Nate "Rocket" Wonder and Chuck Lightning of Wondaland Productions. And together they crafted a new strain of jamming music they called "ish." In the hip hop community, "ish" is a euphemism for the profane four-letter word for excrement, but as Monae explains, they set out, like proverbial alchemists, to turn lesser substances into gold. "This entire project was produced by Wonder & Lightning. We set out to make a soundtrack for the Obama era, something that spoke to the beautiful, majestic and revolutionary times that we're living in. The musical language we're speaking now is called ish. In the African-American community, we've been turning left-overs (like chitlins) and social depredation (like poverty) into delicacies and fine art for years. So we just set out to turn the rubbish all around us into something beautiful. Ish is the bowtie on the funk."
From the sound of "The Electric Lady," ish is an urgent and dangerous form of dance music, rebel music that forces one to fight, jam, and fall in love. Like on "The ArchAndroid," the sonic textures of the album are varied, and the past and present come together to explode and create a mind-blowing future for pop and soul music. For example, wondrous strings reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield and Bernard Herrmann orchestrations abound, Hendrixian guitar solos soar, Outkast-like raps float over punk rock riffs; defiant socially-conscious lyrics extol the virtues of soul-searching and fighting for change, while the funk simply melts your speakers: 808s boom and Prince-like synthesizers squiggle in your earhole, making it veritably impossible to just sit still.
"As we like to say at Wondaland, the booty don't lie. The booty always obeys the LAW OF THE JAM. You can't hate on something that makes your booty move, that makes you jam and have a good time. And the booty will always tell you the truth of a given situation. You can always tell what a community or a person truly believes by just studying the actions of their booties at any given time. They can claim they love this other person or culture, or believe in this peaceful god, or really want freedom, but do their actions prove it? Their actions, what their booties do or don't do, that tells you the truth."
The recording process was fun, rewarding, but also strained by Monae's newfound need to be more courageous and personally revealing in her storytelling. "To do this album properly, I had to revisit some turbulent chapters in my life, deal with some questions and experiences left over from my childhood. There were so many things I had questions about. Sexual things. Racial Things. Gender things. Memories. Things I thought I had left behind me. New things I was discovering. But ultimately I found myself emulating my mother and grandmother and using their strength to surpass my fear. I had to do that before I could write and sing and perform these new songs convincingly. I'm not the kind of artist that can perform something night after night, if I don't believe in it, or if it's not true to me or my experience."
Monae was also inspired and emboldened by her truly amazing collaborators: Roman GianArthur, the wunderkind and Wondaland Arts Society artist-in-residence that, once again, provided the album's magisterial overture; the soul star Miguel, who crooned his way effortlessly to the stars and helped provide a prime baby-making moment on the lush ballad "Primetime"; Erykah Badu, her self-ascribed "twin," who used her cosmic grace and poise to help turn the first single "Q.U.E.E.N." into a female empowerment anthem and a runaway smash; and none other than her lifetime hero, the legendary Prince, who contributed in countless ways, musically, vocally, and most importantly, spiritually -- by conversing with her from his purple telephone in Minneapolis, whenever she was weak and unsure which artistic direction to go.
As she worked, Monae found herself, as always, drawn again into her other love, science fiction, and the exploits of Cindi Mayweather, the heroine of her first EP "Metropolis." In fact, the new album serves as Suite IV and V of her Metropolis saga, and in this chapter, the android hero Cindi moves from self-realization to self-actualization: from the knowledge and owning of her unique superpowers, to actually using them to better the world around her. Monae says, "I like to think you can hear me using my superpowers this time. And not just talking or wondering about them. "The Electric Lady" is like the big action sequence in the third act of an epic film. Every party this album starts, or every baby born because of it, is actually another victory against the Great Divide."
As she continued to work on the album, Monae found herself displaying these superpowers in new ways in the recording studio, and found that some of her best creative work was done when she was running entire production sessions by herself. "There were key moments like the rap on Q.U.E.E.N. where I needed to be alone. I dimmed the lights, setup the mic and engineered myself. I just let the words and sounds flow through me. Overall, I've been feeling stronger as a producer, as well as writer." In addition, on this album, Monae had the chance not only to produce herself, but also to produce her collaborators Miguel, Erykah Badu and Prince. "I'm still humbled by the collaborations and partnerships I have on this album. I actually got the chance to produce and write for some of my heroes. And through my recording label the Wondaland Arts Society, I've been executive producing the artists I love. Wondaland artists such as Deep Cotton and Roman GianArthur. I'm proud of the Wondaland movement, and this new phase in my life as an artist, producer, and businesswoman."
The fruits and rewards of this artistic journey can be heard in ample measure on the album's courageous, outrageously funky first single "Q.U.E.E.N," which features the queen herself, Erkyah Badu. "Erykah's one of my best friends, and we talk about everything. That particular song really developed from a deep conversation we were having about a woman's place in the world. And how we were expected to be freaks and muses and virgin goddesses all at the same time by patriarchal cultures and religions. Rather than answer all the questions we just decided to jam to them and let the booties decide."
Now that the album is complete, Monae finally has a concrete formula for the Electric Lady that she summed up by turning her first single "Q.U.E.E.N." into an acronym. In Monae's own words, "An Electric Lady is Quirky, Unafraid, Electric, Epic and Nicety. That's when you're being nice and nasty, noble and naughty all at the same damn time. Because even superheroes need a glass of red wine. Even rebel women need a kiss every once in a while. What's proper and acceptable behavior simply depends on the time of day... and the kind of week you've been having."
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