Compared to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame is a modest institution. Despite a presence in the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles and an under-construction basement installation at the Brill Building in New York, the org, founded in 1969, doesn’t have a televised ceremony, and it’s still in search of a permanent home.
Yet that other music hall of fame would certainly be chuffed to see the kind of performance lineup that the Songwriters Hall has cooked up for its 46th year: Inducting seven songwriters who range from country to blues, pop and rock, the New York soiree’s guests range from Lady Gaga (recipient of the Hall’s debut Contemporary Icon award) to reclusive Grateful Dead collaborator Robert Hunter, Toby Keith, Cyndi Lauper and Johnny Mercer Award winner Van Morrison, making one of his only two scheduled U.S. performances this year.
Plus, as Songwriters Hall president and CEO Linda Moran notes, Morrison famously skipped his Rock Hall induction.
“When a lot of these people were starting out, their heart and soul was in the songwriting they do,” she says. “Years later they get acknowledged for performing and become a star, but to get recognized for their songwriting is still a major thing.”
Though she’s the youngest of the night’s honorees, Gaga certainly embodies that dictum as much as anyone. Back when she was still known by her birthname Stefani Germanotta, the young writer-performer took part in the Songwriting Hall’s showcases, and beyond her own songwriting, Gaga has helped shine a spotlight on the classic American songbook through her collaborative album with Tony Bennett.
“When we created this award, she really seemed like the perfect one to get it,” Moran says. “We don’t give these special awards out every year, and everyone just felt that it was a perfect one to do.
“I think she’s definitely underrated as a songwriter, partially because she was first known more as a personality.”
The hall maintains a number of initiatives to keep the future Gagas coming, with the past year having seen master classes from the likes of Gamble and Huff, Benny Blanco, David Byrne and Ralph Peer at NYU and USC. This year, the hall also sponsored its inaugural songwriting contest, with victorious Canadian songsmith JoJo Worthington winning a contract with Universal Music Publishing Group.
In addition to the debut award for Gaga, the hall will also be awarding its third-ever Visionary Leadership award to outgoing ASCAP head John LoFrumento, who steered the performing rights organization to its first ever billion-dollar year in his last go-round with the group. In what Moran calls an indication of the exec’s standing in the industry, the award will be presented by both ASCAP president Paul Williams and Mike O’Neill, topper of competing org BMI.
“I don’t think that’s ever happened before, where one PRO wants to come honor the other,” she says. “That’s going to send a unified message.”
What: Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony
When: June 18
Where: Marriott Marquis Hotel, New York
Songwriters Hall of Fame inductees: Bobby Braddock, Willie Dixon, Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia, Toby Keith, Cyndi Lauper, Linda Perry
Visionary Leadership award: John LoFrumento
Hal Davis Starlight Award: Nate Ruess
Johnny Mercer Award: Van Morrison
Contemporary Icon Award: Lady Gaga