Tucked into the corner of the fourth floor of L.A. Live’s Grammy Museum, barely the size of an average American’s living room, the Songwriters Hall of Fame doesn’t look like much: a couple of kiosks, some wall panels and that’s it. But, in fact, its underwhelming presence belies the truly remarkable thing about the exhibit. It’s the first physical space to house the Hall since its creation more than 40 years ago.
SHOF was founded in 1969 to honor the unsung heroes of songwriting, the folks who put pen to paper and actually eke out a tune. These legends are only occasionally the ones to perform the numbers, and the most prolific among them are far from household names, at least among those accustomed to shopping for their music on iTunes.
For example, SHOF CEO and Grammy- and Oscar-winner Hal David wrote the lyrics for B.J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” and Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat” without performing either. That is, until SHOF’s ribbon-cutting opening night Oct. 19 when David played “Raindrops.”
According to SHOF president Linda Moran, the exhibit is long overdue. “This has been our primary goal for decades,” she says.
Aptly, the first thing one sees on entering the space is a list of the Hall of Fame’s inductees, which Moran says she had to fight for, as museum curators wanted the full list available via a computer kiosk instead of in print. But the physical list is significant, because a few curiosities pop out upon brief inspection. For example, because of the number of names in contention for induction each year, legends Phil Collins and Freddie Mercury weren’t included until 2003. In fact, it takes so long that this year saw six posthumous inductions, including Bob Marley’s.
Other features include interactive kiosks that allow visitors to take a crack at songwriting themselves, and displays containing the original sheets of paper on which certain popular songs were handwritten.
The latter is particularly enlightening, as Eminem’s erratic scrawl of the lyrics of “Stan” looks like the musings of a paranoid schizophrenic, Taylor Swift’s red-penned words for “Tim McGraw” seem ripped right out of a preteen girl’s diary and David’s penmanship on “What the World Needs Is Love” may be sloppy, but not a single word was crossed out or second-guessed, as though perfection were that simple.
Moran says SHOF brass have only the most tenuous idea of what they want to do with the space in the future. “We want to do more events there,” Moran says. “We want to continue to do workshops and master classes and songwriting events and sessions with writers.”