For Beach Boy Brian Wilson, his induction Thursday into the Songwriters Hall of Fame isn’t the only recent recognition of his songcraft, but it is perhaps the most meaningful.
“It’s one of the highest, most beautiful honors,” he said. “It means that I’m a creative person, that I can create music.”
The honor — which also will be bestowed upon late soul singer Curtis Mayfield, soul godfather James Brown, folky crooner James Taylor, and the Eagles‘ Don Henley and Glenn Frey — coincides with renewed interest in the Beach Boys’ long-overlooked album Pet Sounds (1966), which this year finally went gold. Next month he’ll take the LP’s material, which includes such songs as “God Only Knows” and “Sloop John B” (RealAudio excerpt), on the road, performing it in its entirety with local orchestras.
At Thursday’s 31st annual Songwriters Hall of Fame awards dinner in New York, the honored composers will not perform their own music but will hear others interpret it.
Teenage pop trio Hanson will tackle the harmonies and orchestrations of Wilson’s work, performing a medley of his songs. Wilson said he wasn’t familiar with the group’s music but that he was looking forward to hearing their treatment of his music.
Mayfield’s award will be presented by fellow ’70s R&B star Isaac Hayes to the late songwriter’s wife, daughter and manager.
Mayfield, already inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, died last year at 57. He was paralyzed in an onstage accident in 1990, but his desire to make music never left. His friend and former Impressions bandmate Jerry Butler remembered him saying, after the accident, “I have these thoughts and melodies running through my mind, and I can’t pick [my guitar] up and do it.”
Brian McKnight will perform several of Mayfield’s hits, which included “People Get Ready” (RealAudio excerpt), “Freddie’s Dead” and “It’s All Right.”
Rap mogul Sean “Puffy” Combs will induct James Brown, whose songs will be performed by soul singer Bobby Womack.
Ben E. King will perform his hit “Stand by Me” (RealAudio excerpt) for the song’s writers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who will receive the Johnny Mercer Award, which recognizes “a history of outstanding creative works.” Leiber and Stoller composed numerous early rock hits, including 20 songs made famous by Elvis Presley, such as “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock.”
Singer Carole King, who wrote the hit “You’ve Got a Friend” for James Taylor, will honor his induction by performing his work, while J.D. Souther will perform songs by longtime collaborators Henley and Frey. Souther co-wrote several Eagles hits, including “Best of My Love” and “New Kid in Town.”
Neil Diamond, who will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, will hear his work performed by pop singer Jill Sobule, and Aaron Neville will sing a medley of songs by Johnny Mathis, who will receive the Hitmaker Award.
Also receiving honors will be songwriters Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons, who wrote “All of Me,” and Jimmie Davis, who wrote “You Are My Sunshine.” Publisher Julian Aberbach, whose catalog includes work from such artists as Presley and Del Shannon, will receive the Abe Olman Publisher Award.