The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Classes of 2020 and 2021 were officially honored Monday night (Nov. 1) during NaSHOF’s 50th and 51st Anniversary Hall of Fame Gala. The musical contributions of the 10 new inductees were celebrated through star-studded performances of some of their biggest songs for the capacity crowd at Nashville’s Music City Center.
Honored for the Class Of 2020 were Kent Blazy and Brett James in the songwriter category; Spooner Oldham in the veteran songwriter category; Steve Earle in the songwriter/artist category; and Bobbie Gentry in the veteran songwriter/artist category. Those recognized in the Class of 2021 were Rhett Akins and Buddy Cannon in the songwriter category; John Scott Sherrill in the veteran songwriter category; Toby Keith in the songwriter/artist category, and Amy Grant in the veteran songwriter/artist category.
“This year we’re belatedly celebrating our Golden Anniversary—more than 50 years of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame,” said Sarah Cates, Board Chair of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Foundation. “Though we were unable to gather last year, we’re making up for lost time by honoring two stellar classes. It’s gratifying to have these legendary songwriters join us at last!”
Trisha Yearwood kicked off the evening honoring inductee Bobbie Gentry in a performance of the hit “Ode To Billy Joe,” a global smash that was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Gentry did not attend the event, and instead NaSHOF member Gretchen Peters spoke on her behalf. Thomas Rhett performed his father’s signature hit “That Ain’t My Truck” as a special tribute to inductee Rhett Akins, then NaSHOF member Byron Hill presented him. Carrie Underwood performed her mega-hit “Jesus Take The Wheel” to honor inductee Brett James, accompanied by co-writers Hillary Lindsey and Gordie Sampson. James was presented by NaSHOF member Rivers Rutherford.
Kenny Chesney honored inductee Buddy Cannon with a performance of the Cannon-penned Vern Gosdin hit, “Set ’Em Up Joe,” before NaSHOF member Bill Anderson presented Cannon. Toby Keith was honored by NaSHOF member Ronnie Dunn, who performed Keith’s 1993 No. 1 hit, “Should’ve Been A Cowboy,” a song that would go on to become one of the most played country song of the 1990s. Hall of Fame member Mac McAnally presented Keith.
NaSHOF member John Anderson was on hand to honor John Scott Sherrill with a performance of his 1982 Sherrill-penned hit “Wild And Blue,” before Hall of Fame Board member and industry journalist/historian Robert K. Oermann presented Sherrill. Jason Isbell honored inductee Spooner Oldham with a performance of “I’m Your Puppet,” and NaSHOF member Dickey Lee inducted him.
Emmylou Harris honored inductee Steve Earle with a performance of his song “Pilgrim.” Hall of Fame Board member and host of The Songwriters public television show Ken Paulson presented Earle.
Vince Gill also paid tribute to wife Amy Grant during the special evening with a performance of her song, “Breath of Heaven,” and Garth Brooks took the stage to honor inductee Kent Blazy and also perform their hit “If Tomorrow Never Comes” with him, which was named NSAI’s Song of the Year in 1989.