Aaron Barker, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Bob Morrison and the late Townes Van Zandt were officially inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in Sunday night (Oct. 9) at the Music City Center.
In addition Ashley Gorley was named Songwriter of the Year and Lori McKenna claimed Song of the Year for “Humble and Kind” (and sang an acoustic version of it after her speech). Cole Swindell was named Songwriter/Artist of the Year and he emotionally accepted the award in a pre-taped video.
The event began with the announcement of the list of 10 Songs I Wish I’d Written, voted on by members of Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI).
“Every year our organization has the distinct pleasure of honoring four of the best of the best songwriters in our community with induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame,” said Pat Alger, Board Chair of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Foundation and himself a Hall of Fame member. “Once again the current group of inductees exemplifies the high standards that have helped make Nashville the songwriting capital of the world.”
Following welcoming remarks by Alger, the evening kicked off with inductions and performances.
Morrison was inducted by Hall of Fame songwriter Layng Martine Jr. William Michael Morgan performed a traditional-leaning “Looking For Love” and Phil Vassar sang a sterling rendition of “You Decorated My Life.”
Barker was inducted by Phyllis Williams, widow of late Hall of Fame songwriter/Barker co-writer Kim Williams. Curb artist Mo Pitney performed a heartfelt version of “Baby Blue.” The legendary Mac Davis stepped in for “Love Without End, Amen.”
Chapman was inducted by longtime friend/hit songwriter Annie Roboff. Kim Carnes, Emily Saliers (of The Indigo Girls) and Pam Tillis joined Bill Lloyd to offer “This Kiss.” Pop superstar Olivia Newton-John joined Lloyd, singer/songwriter Amy Sky and Chapman’s son, Ernest Chapman, to sing “Sand and Water,” a lovely performance that received a standing ovation.
Van Zandt was inducted by producer Jim Rooney. Van Zandt, who died in 1997, was shown performing “Pancho and Lefty” via a video clip from the 1976 film Heartworn Highways. Darrell Scott delivered a strong take on “White Freightliner Blues.” Ricky Skaggs & Sharon White performed the exquisite “If I Needed You.” Van Zandt’s award was accepted by his children Katie Belle Van Zandt and Will Van Zandt.
In a special tribute alongside the inductions, Hall of Fame songwriters Alger, Davis and Ray Stevens presented the Frances Williams Preston Mentor Award to the late Atlanta music icon Bill Lowery. Butch Lowery accepted on behalf of his father. The event also paused to remember five inductees who have died since the 2015 ceremony: Guy Clark, Merle Haggard, Ted Harris, John D. Loudermilk and Kim Williams.
The evening featured a special presentation to Robert K. Oermann, industry journalist and NaSHOF board historian. He was presented with the organization’s Keystone Award in appreciation for his long-term commitment to the Nashville songwriting community and the Foundation’s Hall of Fame nominating process.
Presented to the songwriters, the selections for 10 Songs I Wish I’d Written include: “Break Up in a Small Town,” “Burning House,” “Buy Me a Boat,” “Die a Happy Man,” “I Got the Boy,” “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” “Like a Wrecking Ball,” “My Church,” “Record Year” and “Sangria.”
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