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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

R.E.M. comes together again for the Songwriters Hall of Fame event, which also celebrates the achievements of Timbaland and Steely Dan

Stipe emphasized the band’s unity and their initial efforts to secure ownership of their master recordings, along with fairly dividing songwriting credits.

In a remarkable twist of fate, the 2024 Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony resembled a scene straight out of science fiction. The members of R.E.M. had playfully mused earlier that it would require nothing short of a celestial event, like a comet, to bring them back together for one final performance. Yet, against all odds, there they stood, reunited amidst the grandeur of the gala unfolding at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in bustling New York City on Thursday night.

The prestigious annual affair lauded a stellar array of songwriting talent, with luminaries such as R.E.M., Steely Dan, and Timbaland taking center stage. Timbaland, the maestro behind a string of chart-topping hits, treated the audience to a mesmerizing medley of his greatest triumphs.

R.E.M., comprised of Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Michael Stipe, had left an indelible mark on the alternative rock landscape with iconic tunes like “Everybody Hurts” and “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” However, the evening reached its zenith when the band delivered a spellbinding acoustic rendition of “Losing My Religion,” leaving the audience awestruck.

“We are R.E.M.,” proclaimed Stipe, with palpable emotion. “And this is what we did.”

Stipe took the opportunity to underscore the band’s solidarity and their pioneering efforts to secure ownership of their master recordings, as well as to equitably distribute songwriting credits. “There are a lot of people who believed in us,” he reflected, gratitude evident in his voice.

Elsewhere in the evening’s program, Jason Isbell paid homage to R.E.M. with a spirited rendition of “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” quipping afterwards about the dizzying feat of delivering so many lyrics in rapid succession.

The induction ceremony also honored Nashville luminary Hillary Lindsey, renowned for penning hits like “Girl Crush” and “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” Dean Pitchford, the creative force behind anthems like “Footloose” and “Fame,” was celebrated alongside Lindsey, with The Bacon Brothers infusing the proceedings with exuberance through a rollicking performance of “Footloose.”

As the evening unfolded, the spotlight turned to Steely Dan, with Irving Azoff regaling the audience with anecdotes about the band’s irreverent antics. Donald Fagan, one half of the iconic duo alongside the late Walter Becker, graciously acknowledged his partner’s influence in his acceptance speech, before Phish frontman Trey Anastasio paid tribute with a soulful rendition of “Kid Charlemagne” seguing into “Reelin’ in the Years.”

The ceremony took a poignant turn as SZA was bestowed with the Hal David Starlight Award, recognizing her impact as a burgeoning songwriter. Moved by the honor, SZA shared a heartfelt sentiment about finding solace and purpose in her craft, before captivating the audience with an intimate performance of “Nobody Gets Me.”

Carrie Underwood took to the stage to honor Hillary Lindsey, delivering a stirring rendition of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” in tribute to her esteemed collaborator. Lindsey, in turn, regaled the audience with tales of her humble beginnings and her unwavering dedication to the art of songwriting.

Missy Elliott electrified the room with her dynamic tribute to Timbaland, recalling their storied partnership and his groundbreaking contributions to music. Timbaland, known for his innovative approach to production, expressed gratitude for the recognition, emphasizing the profound impact of collaboration and familial support on his journey.

Diane Warren, recipient of the prestigious Johnny Mercer Award, was hailed as a songwriting luminary, with Andra Day delivering a soul-stirring rendition of “Stand Up for Something” in her honor. Warren, in a poignant moment, credited her tenacity and passion for shaping her identity as a songwriter, before the evening culminated in a celebratory performance marking the 40th anniversary of her timeless classic, “Rhythm of the Night.”

In a fitting tribute, country music icon Cindy Walker was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, her enduring legacy immortalized alongside an illustrious roster of musical luminaries spanning decades of creative innovation.

Established in 1969 to honor the architects of popular music, the Songwriters Hall of Fame continues to celebrate the timeless artistry and enduring influence of those who shape the soundtrack of our lives. From Gloria Estefan to Carole King, from Paul Simon to Bruce Springsteen, the Hall stands as a testament to the transcendent power of song, ensuring that the voices of generations past and present echo through the annals of musical history.


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