“On a night like this, it comes back to one thing: the power of the pen,” Bon Jovi told Rolling Stone before his induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame last night in New York City. “If you write one song that comes across decades, you’re lucky. If you write a body of them and you’re recognized in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, it’s prestigious.” The organization’s 40th induction ceremony was a celebration of the individuals behind such time-spanning hits, with an eclectic group of honorees that also included Crosby, Stills and Nash, Jason Mraz and Sir Tom Jones.
Bon Jovi and longtime collaborator/bandmate Richie Sambora celebrated their induction with a fiery “Wanted Dead or Alive” after Daughtry honored them with a rocking “I’ll Be There For You.” James Taylor was on hand to perform a medley of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Long Time Gone,” “Love the One You’re With” and “Teach Your Children” before inducting the trio, who handled their acceptance with humor (said Stills, “I have to thank all the great women who dumped me and all the dumb politicians that did things that [inspired me] to write songs”) before delivering a gorgeous “Helplessly Hoping.”
Past honoree Rob Thomas presented Jason Mraz with the Hal David Starlight Award. “I hate you,” Thomas joked. “You’ve ruined the curve for everybody. You’re kind of young, and you’re cute and you’re just too talented and I think you should stop.” A visibly touched Mraz choked up while thanking the crowd. “I thought that songwriting either makes you spiritual or a crazy person, and if it’s not doing either one of those things then you’re doing it wrong. I’m honored to feel like I’m doing it right.” he said before performing an inspired version of “I’m Yours.”
American Idol judge and songwriter Kara DioGuardi presented Tom Jones with the Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award. “You have to have songs to get your foot in the door… You have to have great songs, and you have to be lucky to recognize them,” Jones, who recently started co-writing his material, told the room. His spirited medley of “Green Green Grass” and “It’s Not Unusual” was halted when Jones asked to start “Unusual” over “I started in the wrong place. I’ve only been singing this since 1964!” he deadpanned.
The night also saw special awards presented to Motown hit writers Holland-Dozier-Holland (“Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Reach Out, I’ll Be There”), Andy Williams (“Moon River”) and music publisher Maxyne Lange. Also inducted with this year’s class were the Young Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati; British songwriting team Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway (“You’ve Got Your Troubles,” Coca-Cola theme “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony”); Hair lyricists James Rado and Gerome Ragni and composer Galt MacDermot; and lyricist/composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pochahontas, Prince of Egypt).