ASCAP Gives Songwriting Award To Steely Dan

Ceremony features musical tribute to jazz-rock duo.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Jazz-rock gurus Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, better known as the duo Steely Dan, received the ASCAP Founders Award for their achievements in songwriting at the 17th annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards on Monday.

"We're sort of ambivalent about a lot of things we do, but songwriting we feel we're pretty good at," Fagen said after arriving with Becker at the Beverly Wilshire hotel for the black-tie awards dinner.

"Songwriting is, in some ways, the most satisfying thing we get to do, so it's nice to be recognized for it," Becker said. "Plus there's a free dinner involved."

But recognition has a downside, too. "When you start getting awards, you start feeling old," Becker said.

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers is a performing-rights organization that licenses broadcast, cable, live Internet and other public performances of music for its more than 100,000 members. Once a year, it honors its top songwriters and publishers.

Michael McDonald Leads Musical Tribute

Steely Dan released their first album in 20 years, Two Against Nature, in February. The album, which picks up where the duo left off with 1980's Gaucho, features the single "Gaslighting Abbie" (RealAudio excerpt).

Veteran singer/songwriter Michael McDonald, who sang backup on several of the duo's '70s albums, led a musical tribute featuring the Steely Dan staples "Pretzel Logic" and "Aja" (RealAudio excerpt).

"Some of the high spots for me in the music business, for sure, were those fleeting moments when I got to play Steely Dan's music with the band," McDonald said. "It's such a unique form of pop music, and such a combination of traditions. ... There's a lot of jazz/R&B, but Steely Dan's form of R&B was so unique because it was very funky. They always had a way of interweaving both schools of music."

Goo Goo Dolls singer Johnny Rzeznik received the night's next-highest honor, Song of the Year, for his band's hit single "Slide" (RealAudio excerpt).

Rzeznik, who switched publishing companies from BMI to ASCAP for the Goo Goo Dolls' most recent album, also accepted honors at the BMI Pop Awards last week.

"I'm working both sides of the fence," he quipped. "It's another chance to get dressed up."

Teen-Pop Writers Awarded

Max Martin, who wrote such hits as the Backstreet Boys' "As Long as You Love Me" and Britney Spears' "... Baby One More Time," was honored as Songwriter of the Year for the second consecutive year.

In addition to McDonald's tribute to Steely Dan, the event featured performances by Sixpence None the Richer, Jewel and Christina Aguilera. Prior to the ceremony, Aguilera said she came to support David Frank and Steve Kipner, who were honored as the songwriters of her breakthrough hit, "Genie in a Bottle."

"It was a magical song for me," the 19-year-old singer said. "It was a blessing that it came to me, and I came to it."

Singer/songwriter Jewel, who arrived late to the ceremony, accepted an award for her song "Hands" (RealAudio excerpt). "It's a song I believe in a lot, just a personal mission statement," she said. "It's so hard for kids to know that they can make a difference."

TLC's hit "No Scrubs" (RealAudio excerpt) also was a winning tune, and rightly so, according to the R&B trio's Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. "It was pretty much the women's national anthem for 1999," said the rapper, who turned up without her two partners.

Lit Bring Beer, Mom

Rockers Lit, who arrived at the ceremony clutching cans of beer, accepted an award for their hit "My Own Worst Enemy" (RealAudio excerpt).

"I'm stoked that I got to bring my mom," singer A. Jay Popoff said. "I'm a single guy right now, and there was no girl worthy of bringing other than her. This is the first kind of schmoozey type thing she's been a part of, and I'm excited for her. She's one of our biggest fans."

Producer Glen Ballard accepted an award for Alanis Morissette's "Thank U" (RealAudio excerpt), which he co-wrote with the Canadian singer. "That song is very special to me and to her," he said. "It's a celebration really of just being alive and being connected with people."