Stevie Nicks prefers writing a song over meeting a handsome prince. Ne-Yo claimed songwriting saved his life. And Bob Seger said writing a song is the hardest, yet most rewarding thing that he does. Converging opinions thrived at the 43rd annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction ceremony in New York where Seger, along with Canadian folk rocker Gordon Lightfoot, “Gambler” songwriter Don Schlitz, and Jim Steinman of “Bat Out of Hell” fame became the latest members of the prestigious club. The writers of the long-running musical, The Fantastick’s were also inducted.
Seger opened the show with a spirited version of his 1973 classic, “Turn the Page.” He was then inducted by Valerie Simpson who performed “We’ve Got Tonight” in his honor. On the red carpet before the performance, Simpson said that steamy track has a very special power. “It’s one of the sexiest songs I know, it put more people in bed than I can imagine,” Simpson said.
Ne-Yo was honored with this year’s Hal David Starlight Award. It’s given to young artists that are making a significant impact with their original music. “To have a person who that has written a song that I look up to or that I grew up listening to tell me that I am good at it to. That means the world to me,” Ne-Yo said of Hal David, a frequent songwriting partner to Burt Bacharach.”
Then he explained how writing songs saved him. “I was a pretty riled up little kid, and if not for my mom giving me the pad and the pen and telling me to take my emotions and put them there, then there was no telling then I might I have been sticking you up or something,” Ne-Yo joked.
After being inducted by Swizz Beatz, Ne-Yo told the crowd of nearly 900 that he didn’t prepare a speech because he still didn’t believe he was standing there.
While Nicks was not inducted, she did honor Bette Midler with the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award, and even performed “The Rose,” the song made famous by Midler in the 1979 movie of the same name. “People ask what is your favorite thing to do in a night? Be in a fantastic studio with a great poem and a piano and a little tape recorder. That is my idea of a great time,” Nicks said.
Lightfoot known for such hits as “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” and “Sundown” performed his haunting 1970 ode to his failed marriage, “If You Could Read My Mind.” On the red carpet he explained his motivation: “My life had been a bit of a rollercoaster. I think at that time I was going through the lower dip and sort of climbing up again.”
Over the years, artists from Barbara Streisand to Johnny Cash covered the song.
One of the evening’s funniest moments came from Jim Steinman, who wrote songs for Meat Loaf on his first two Bat Out of Hell albums. After Loaf and Constantine Maroulis performed an abridged version of the nearly 10-minute title track, Steinman noted: “They shortened the song so much I felt like I was watching an episode of Glee.”
The Songwriters Hall of Fame was created in 1969 by a group of established songwriters, including the legendary Jonny Mercer. The organization’s mission is to shine a spotlight on the accomplishments of songwriters.