*The 44th annual Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony took place Thursday evening in New York, with Smokey Robinson on hand to debut part of a new song he wrote about Motown founder Berry Gordy, who was presented with the organization’s special Pioneer Award.
The Pioneer Award was established in 2012 to recognize the creators of musical bodies of work that have had a major influence on subsequent generations of songwriters. Woody Guthrie received the first award last year.
Robinson, who gave a lengthy, 15-minute introduction to Gordy, said he was recovering from inflamed vocal cords and hadn’t performed in two months. Then he sang part of a new song he wrote about his relationship with Gordy, who he called his mentor, brother, sometimes dad and best friend.
“Did you know all the joy you’d be bringing,” he sang. Some of the cast of “Motown: The Musical” followed with a medley of classics.
Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry Tyler, Perry, Mick Jones and Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Holly Knight, JD Souther and Tony Hatch were inducted into the Songwriters Hall.
Benny Blanco, the 25-year-old who has co-written No. 1 hits for Katy Perry, Maroon 5 and Ke$ha, earned the Hal David Starlight award.
“They picked the wrong person,” said Blanco, who has also worked with Khalifa, Nicki Minaj and Bruno Mars. “I’m in a room with people I should probably be serving food to.”
The event also featured a video from Bill Clinton, who spoke about the significance of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” during the Civil Rights Movement. The song, performed by Jordin Sparks, was honored with the towering song award.