Music and emotions ran high at this year’s BMI Awards banquet on Music Row Tuesday night (Nov. 13).
Jesse Frasure was named the organization’s Country Songwriter of the Year, thanks to “No Such Thing As a Broken Heart,” “Marry Me,” “A Girl Like You,” “Unforgettable” and “Ring On Every Finger.”
“He has transformed the sound of modern country music,” stated BMI’s Jody Williams. “I am so proud of this guy.”
“This is a little bit surreal,” Jesse told the crowd. “I came from the Vanderbilt Breast Clinic today. My wife [Stevie] had a double mastectomy three weeks ago, and she’s here, looking stunning. And she’s cancer-free. She’s a bad-ass, and I wouldn’t be here without her.
“This is the most amazing community. There’s so many people who make this possible along the way. I love you guys.” He particularly cited BMI attendees Florida Georgia Line and Thomas Rhett. Another star, Jay-Z, saluted him via video, because of the songwriter’s association with Rhythm House Music.
There was this one more Jesse Frasure shout out: “Steve Cropper, I’m honored to be in the same room with you.”
He was referring to this year’s BMI Icon honoree. Throughout the evening, Cropper was saluted with performances that recognized his contributions as a guitarist, songwriter and/or producer.
Mike Farris and Lucie Silvas turned in a barn-burning medley of “Soul Man”/”Hold On I’m Coming,” featuring Cropper’s iconic guitar riffs being played by Kenny Greenberg.
Maggie Rose sang a sizzling “Midnight Hour.” Why can’t the industry find a place for this talented woman? Luke Combs was a bruising brawler on “Knock On Wood.” He’s never sounded better. John Legend’s smooth, sultry performance of “Dock of the Bay,” again with Greenberg on guitar, was the capper.
BMI’s Mike O’Neill said, “It is my absolute honor, my absolute privilege, to honor Steve Cropper. He’s deeply influenced songwriters and musicians.” Mike noted Steve’s membership in the Rock, Songwriters and Musician Halls of Fame, as well as his Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. “The Smithsonian is displaying Steve Cropper’s guitars, because he shaped American music.”
Among those saluting Cropper via video were Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Dan Aykroyd, Paul Shaffer, Marty Stuart & The Fabulous Superlatives, Charlie Daniels, Ringo Starr and Garth Brooks.
The honoree’s commemorative Icon silver bucket was inscribed, “for your unique and indelible influence on a generation of music makers.”
“An Icon Award is a big deal,” said Cropper. “God bless you guys for coming, and thank you so much.
“The tears will not stop flowing. Goodnight, Otis, wherever you are.” “Dock of the Bay,” which Steve Cropper wrote with Otis Redding, has been performed more than 11 million times.
BMI’s Song of the Year award went to “In Case You Didn’t Know,” penned by Tyler Reeve and Trent Tomlinson, who accepted alongside collaborator and performer Brett Young.
Brett was among a bevy of record makers who attended. Others included Maren Morris, LoCash, Mac McAnally, Dustin Lynch, John Oates, Kristian Bush (Sugarland), Charlie Worsham, Maddie & Tae, Chris Lane, Levi Hummon, T.G. Sheppard & Kelly Lang, Jon Pardi, Lauren Alaina, Charles Kelley (Lady A), Chris Janson, RaeLynn, Bekka Bramlett, Chris Young, Luke Bryan, Abby Anderson, Michael Ray, Phillip Sweet (LBT), Granger Smith, Mitchell Tenpenny, Sisterhood, Cole Swindell, Lanco, TJ Osborne (Brothers Osborne), Scotty McCreery, Carly Pearce, Keith Urban, Deborah Allen, The Warren Brothers and Frankie Ballard.
Earning their first BMI awards were Kane Brown, Luke Combs, Mike Henderson (The Kingsnakes, The Bluebloods), Russell Dickerson, Walker Hayes, Devin Dawson and Cameron Duddy (Midland). In fact, among the credits of the 50 hits honored were 25 first-time songwriter winners.
Others first-timers included Ben Stennis, Keesy Timmer, Brandon Lancaster, Trent Harmon, Kyle Fishman, Joshua Miller, Taylor Phillips and Thomas Marc Archer. On the other side of the spectrum were Rhett Akins, winning his 34th BMI Award, and Rodney Clawson, winning his 32nd BMI Award.
The BMI parking garage was transformed into a wonderland, thanks to glittering, multi-tiered chandeliers and multi-hued indirect lighting. Tall, hydrangea-encrusted arches framed the entryways. Tables were set with elegant, black satin tablecloths. Massed lilies and roses were in huge centerpieces surrounded by glowing tea lights.
It felt like sitting in a meat locker, however. I wore a turtleneck and a scarf with my tux. I felt sorry for the young women garbed in skin-baring evening gowns. Ed Morris warmed his hands over the table’s tiny tea-light flames.
As usual, attendees worked the room like madcaps. BMI always has a huge schmooze factor, to the extent that the hosts have to continually ask the crowd to tone it down so that we could hear what was transpiring on stage.
Biz mavens there included Ron Stuve, Blake Chancey, Randy Goodman, Shane Tarleton, Paul Worley, Leslie Fram, Liz Rose, David & Karen Conrad, Randy Talmadge & Trav Livingston, Scott & Sandi Spika Borchetta, David & Susana Ross, Mike Vaden, Storme Warren, Lynn Oliver-Cline, Tony Brown, Allen Brown, Wes Vause, Kelly Sutton, Jessie Schmidt, Mark Wright and Whitney Daane.
Not the least of these was Ben Vaughn, who led his Warner-Tamerlane staff to the stage to collect BMI’s 2018 Country Publisher of the Year Award. The company was behind 20 of the 50 hits honored. The same pubbery won at ASCAP the night before, so here’s a toast to twin victories.
We dined on beef medallions with gravy, asparagus, braised carrots and absolutely delicious scalloped potatoes. Desserts were served in the BMI lobby after the ceremony.
Enjoying the repast were Dennis Quaid, Chris Wallace, Rita Wilson, Scott Hamilton, Rory Bourke, Layng Martine, Jeffrey Steele, Even Stevens and Jerry Crutchfield. Mike O’Neill made a point to single out former Icon awardees Bill Anderson, Bobby Braddock, Mac Davis and Bob DiPiero. He also offered a shout-out to Lee Thomas Miller, who campaigned for the Music Modernization Act. So did Bart Herbison and David Israelite, who drew standing ovations.
“The way Nashville embraces music and the way all of you support one another is truly unique,” said O’Neill. “Country music is special.”
BMI distributes $1.1 billion annually in royalties, more than any other PRO in the world. The BMI country honors were launched in 1953 as Nashville’s first music awards.