Bobby Karl Works The Room: BMI Honors John Hiatt

BMI’s Jody Williams, 2019 BMI Troubadour John Hiatt and BMI’s Mike O’Neill (Photo: Erika Goldring for BMI)


Chapter 631

The next time somebody asks you to name five things you love about living in Nashville, start with this: “John Hiatt lives here.”

I’m serious. This droll, humble, gifted man is a singular presence – in a town famous for hosting sublimely gifted tunesmiths, he is a “songwriter’s songwriter.”

At an intimate banquet at BMI on Monday evening (Sept. 9), Hiatt was honored with the Troubadour Award. The honor celebrates “writers who craft for the sake of the song and set the standard for generations of writers who will follow.”

That’s our man John Hiatt. How well loved and respected is this Nashvillian? Here’s who showed up to sing his tunes – Elvis Costello, Delbert McClinton, The War & Treaty, Lily Hiatt, Lyle Lovett, Marcus King and The World Famous Headliners (featuring individual recording stars Pat McLaughlin, Shawn Camp and Al Anderson),

Here’s who sat in the audience to applaud – Emmylou Harris, John Oates, Sam Bush, T Bone Burnett, Jeff Hanna of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and previous Troubadour winners John Prine and Robert Earl Keen. Actually, they frequently stood to applaud.

Here’s who appeared on video – Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Georgia Hiatt, Buddy Miller, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Urban and Chuck Hull.

“You’re all about integrity,” said BMI’s Mason Hunter to the honoree, “and that’s what this award is all about.”

“It’s truly our privilege to honor you tonight,” added the organization’s CEO Michael O’Neill.

The event was hosted by BMI’s Jody Williams, who continued the plaudits with, “So many of the artists who have covered his songs are songwriters, themselves. And that is the ultimate compliment.”

Among the artists who have recorded Hiatt’s works are Emmylou, Delbert, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Linda Ronstadt, Iggy Pop, Rosanne Cash, Joe Cocker, Tom Petty, Suzy Bogguss, Bob Seger, Ry Cooder, Buddy Guy, Rick Nelson, Don Henley, Gregg Allman, Willie Nelson, The Everly Brothers, Jimmy Buffett, Three Dog Night, The Oak Ridge Boys, Johnny Cash, Bon Jovi, Kenny Rogers, Elvis Presley, Joan Baez, Ronnie Milsap, The Temptations and Asleep at the Wheel.

“Have a Little Faith,” alone, has been recorded by 44 artists. And among Hiatt’s 24 albums are many other gems that shine as brightly.

The World Famous Headliners kicked off the music with “The Thing Called Love.” Delbert followed with “Have a Little Faith.” Lily Hiatt came next, followed by Lyle Lovett’s version of “On the Train to Birmingham.”

“What a joy it is to listen to all these people sing your songs,” said Elvis Costello. He added to the celebratory mood with “Take Off Your Uniform.” The War & Treaty rocked the house with “Feels Like Rain,” then turned up the heat even higher with Marcus King on “Riding with the King.”

BMI’s Jody Williams and Mike O’Neill, 2019 BMI Troubadour John Hiatt, 2018 BMI Troubadour John Prine, 2015 BMI Troubadour Robert Earl Keen and BMI’s Mason Hunter (Photo: Erika Goldring for BMI)

“I don’t know what that was, but that was awesome,” said Jody following a standing ovation. “Can I get an ‘amen’ from the room?”

Prine was last year’s winner, so he presented the vintage, silver Troubadour-award cup.

“I’m speechless,” said John Hiatt. “You can’t do anything without other people’s help: This has always been ‘home’ to me.”

We dined on chicken cordon bleu with roasted potatoes and carrots, followed by pecan mini pie with whipped cream and raspberries.

John Strohm, John Ingrassia, John Allen, Mark Brown, Mark Wright, Adam Wright, Fats Kaplan & Kristi Rose, Jed Hilly, Randy Talmadge, Phil Graham, Paul Kennerley, Ken Levitan, Peter Cooper, Clay Bradley, Dana Strong, Karen Clark, Maurice Miner, Del Bryant, Dusty Miller, Earle Simmons, Carla Wallace, Tracy Gershon, Logan Rogers, Bart Herbison, Katherine Richardson, Juli Thanki, Steve Buchanan, Mickey Rafael and Garth Fundis worked the room.


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