The 2015 Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremonies

(Bob Grossweiner)

The Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) doesn’t get the attention that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame does from the media but being honored by it frequently means more to entertainers. For example, Van Morrison, who propitiously was in town anyway to perform the next night at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, was honored with the SHOF’s highest honor, the Johnny Mercer Award. Morrison refused to attend the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies when he was inducted in 1993.

Ozone Park native Cyndi Lauper was part of the Songwriters Hall Class of 2015. To be fair, many of her biggest hits, including “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” “All Through The Night,” and “True Colors” were written by others although,”She Bop” and “Time After Time” were her own compositions. She has further burnished her songwriting bona fides by composing the music for the hit Broadway show, “Kinky Boots.”

Lauper joked that many of her parents’ friends in Ozone Park were still asking her what she was doing for a living long after she made it big on the Billboard charts. To be fair to them, although she is 62 years old she still looks incredibly unchanged from the cover photo on her 1983 multi-platinum album, “She’s So Unusual.” She still has that Betty Boop voice judging by the way she sang “Hat Full Of Stars” on the stage of the Marriott Marquis Grand Ballroom, the longtime venue for the Songwriters Hall of Fame event.

Canadian ingenue Carly Rae Jepsen of “Call Me Maybe” fame made the induction speech for Cyndi and sang an excellent rendition of “Time After Time.” I asked Jepsen earlier in the evening about her memories of singing at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Arthur Ashe Kids Day in 2013. “It was a lot of fun but my bass player couldn’t find an electric outlet that worked and had to fake playing during the show!”

A key advantage that the Songwriters Hall of Fame has over its Rock & Roll cousin in Cleveland is that it honors all genres of music.

Chicago blues musician and songwriter Willie Dixon was posthumously honored as Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora performed a medley of his most covered tunes,“I Just Want To Make Love To You” and “Hoochie Coochie Man.” No disrespect to Sambora, but a better choice would have been to have the still very active Johnny Rivers perform his hit from literally 50 years ago, “Seventh Son,” that was also written by Dixon.

Country music was front and center at the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The biggest surprise of this year’s Songwriters Hall of Fame show was David Letterman’s replacement, Stephen Colbert, coming on stage and singing a very credible version of Toby Keith’s “As Good As I Once Was,” and then delivering a tribute speech to Keith, country music’s premier baritone singer who also writes most of his own material.

Jennifer Nettles, Sugarland’s very attractive lead vocalist, delivered the best performance of the night, as she powerfully sang “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” the big 1982 George Jones comeback record that was written by one of the evening’s honorees, Bobby Braddock.

“What A Wonderful World,” a tune most associated with Louis Armstrong who lived the latter half of his life in Corona, was written by the former longtime Forest Hills resident, Bob Thiele, and one of Elvis Presley’s favorite songwriters, George David Weiss, was designated as this year’s “Towering Song,” by the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Armstrong’s fellow New Orleans native, Mac Rebannack, better known to all as Dr. John, sang this tune in a rather unrecognizable manner that elicited groans from the audience. “What A Wonderful World” also got a second life when Forest Hills native Joey Ramone recorded it shortly before his untimely passing.

Astoria’s own Tony Bennett praised Lady Gaga (real name: Stephanie Germanotta) in his speech that named her the SHOF’s “Contemporary Icon” songwriter. The two worked together on a very successful standards album last year.

The Songwriters Hall of Fame is currently located as a wing in the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. Given the historic importance of the music publishing business here in New York as exemplified by the Brill Building, it’s a shame that it’s not located here.

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