Performing rights organization ASCAP held its annual Pop Awards in Los Angeles last night, honoring the most played songs of the year and handing out career achievement nods to Peter Frampton, Trent Reznor and Carly Simon.
Simon, who wrapped up the night with a rare live performance of “Anticipation” and “You’re So Vain,” was nostalgic as she spoke with Rolling Stone before the awards. “The reason I started singing is because I really couldn’t speak . . . I had such a bad stammer,” Simon recalled. “Our whole house became sort of an opera because my whole family knew that I couldn’t speak, and they didn’t want me to sing alone. So everybody began to sing. It was quite a delightful and musical childhood. It became so natural to me to write songs.”
Despite her music-focused ubringing, Simon never planned on being a singer. In fact, she might not have made it her livelihood if it weren’t for Cat Stevens and James Taylor. “The only reason I did do it professionally is because of Cat Stevens,” says Simon. “I got a call from Jac Holzman, who was the person who actually signed me to a contract, saying, ‘What would it take for you to get on stage? ‘Cause you got asked to open for Cat Stevens at the Troubadour.’ I said, ‘Get me Russ Kunkel as a drummer,’ knowing that he wouldn’t be able to make it ’cause he was on tour with James Taylor. Lo and behold, that day James was in a motorcycle accident and broke all of his extremities. So the next day I got a call back from Jac Holzman saying, ‘Well, Kunkel’s available – when do we start?’ And I couldn’t say no.”
Bill Withers, who helped present Simon with her award and honored her with a speech, told Rolling Stone, “We’re both class of 1971. We started the same year, so I’ve been never in the music thing when Carly wasn’t.”Another high point of the night was the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines, who performed a beautifully elegant rendition of Simon’s “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be.”
While Simon watched other musicians pay tribute to her and performed with a band that included her son Ben Taylor, Reznor went for brevity, accepting his award with a 40-second speech. After an impressive video montage highlighting his career, Reznor accepted his award from ASCAP President Paul Williams.
“Watching that, it’s pretty clear that bad haircuts have played an important role in my work,” he quipped. “I think probably the first professional affiliation I ever had in my career was with ASCAP, and that has continued on and certainly (been) the longest one. And for your recognition tonight and support over the years, I thank you very much.”
Frampton also went for a short and sweet route in his speech. Before the show, he told Rolling Stone, “I’m not what I would call the most prolific songwriter. I’ve written a lot of songs, but over a long period of time. So, yes, it’s a great honor.”
As for 2011 honorees, Song of the Year went to Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are,” while Max Martin took the honor for Songwriter of the Year and Katy Perry went to the podium multiple times to pick up plaques for her five chart-topping singles.