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R.E.M., Timbaland Inducted to Songwriters Hall; SZA Gets Special Honor

R.E.M., Timbaland Inducted to Songwriters Hall; SZA Gets Special Honor

Kevin Bacon reprised his role in Footloose to honor the title track’s songwriter, R.E.M. reunited after calling it quits 13 years ago, and SZA said winning an honor for her songwriting “validates my entire career.” All this and more occurred at a jam-packed and starry Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction and Awards gala on Tuesday night, as R.E.M., Timbaland, Steely Dan, Hillary Lindsey and Dean Pitchford officially became members of the prestigious organization’s 2024 class.

Jason Isbell honored R.E.M. — who split in 2011 after three decades of success — with a performance of “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine).”

“I don’t know if humanity will make it another thousand years, but if we do, a weird kid in a tiny town will hear “Nightswimming” and feel [something],” Isbell said to cheers from the crowd.

Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Bill Berry and Mike Mills joined forces onstage to perform “Losing My Religion,” winning over the audience at the New York Marriott Marquis.

SZA, who was the most nominated act at this year’s Grammys and is still riding high off of the success of her SOS album, performed an acoustic version of her hit “Snooze” alongside frequent collaborator Carter Lang. She earned the Hal David Starlight Award — an honor for young songwriters — saying “I feel like this means the most to me.”

“As an artist, I’ve been a lot of different people. I’ve been 200 pounds. I’ve been 130 pounds. I’ve been someone who doesn’t dance at all onstage, someone that can only close their eyes and look down, someone that is dancing and trying their best. I’ve just been all these things and I feel like, ‘Oh man, I struggle at the artist-thing.’ Like writing was where I felt like a person and that I had value and that I could show that I was smart, and it was beyond, ‘Am I pretty? Am I liked?’ And that basically meant everything to me,” she said. 

“It made me feel like a person, that I was doing something worth something. So basically receiving this award validates my entire career.”

SZA was introduced by Songwriters Hall chairman Nile Rodgers, who earned a standing ovation when he called out Spotify and said the streaming platform needs to do a better job prioritizing and acknowledging songwriters. 

Pitchford, who won the best original song Oscar for writing “Fame” from Fame, was honored with two performances: Bacon and his brother Michael — aka the Bacon Brothers — performed “Footloose,” while Deniece Williams sang “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.” Both songs from Footloose earned Pitchford Oscar nominations.

Missy Elliott — who became the first female rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall five years ago — showed up to honor her musical partner Timbaland. The beatmaker and producer thanked several artists in his speech, including Aaliyah, Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake and Magoo. “I owe my career to Missy Elliott,” he said.

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Ending his speech, he told the Songwriters Hall: “Thanks for giving me a seat at the table — I’ve been waiting a long time.”

Steely Dan’s longtime manager, Irving Azoff, told stories about the band that earned laughs from the audience, and Trey Anastasio honored Donald Fagen and the late Walter Becker with a rousing performance. Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban spoke highly of Lindsey, who performed a medley of the hits she’s co-written, including Lady Gaga’s “A Million Reasons” and Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color.” 

The night ended with 14-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren, who was inducted into the Songwriters Hall in 2001 and earned the Johnny Mercer Award on Tuesday night. Andra Day honored Warren with a performance while El DeBarge surprised the audience by singing his family band’s 1985 groove “Rhythm of the Night,” which Warren wrote.

“AI worries about Diane Warren,” Paul Williams said onstage as he paid tribute to the prolific writer.

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