NEW YORK Paul McCartney, Hanson, James Brown, Brian Wilson and James Taylor shared a stage Thursday night in the ballroom of a Manhattan hotel, jamming on "Stand by Me" and "Kansas City," after the latter three were inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.
Legendary rock songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who penned both songs, also were onstage for the jam, as was R&B singer Ben E. King, who co-wrote and originally sang "Stand by Me" (RealAudio excerpt).
"Is this cool or what?" McCartney said earlier in the evening, as he inducted Wilson, former leader of the Beach Boys, into the hall. "I've always been very proud to be a songwriter; in this company tonight, I'm even prouder."
With Brown and McCartney gleefully passing a microphone back and forth for vocal riffs on "Stand by Me," the jam was an appropriate end to a ceremony that seemed to mark a coming of age of sorts for the Hall of Fame. After more than 30 years without a physical structure to call its own, the organization is scheduled to open a space in downtown Manhattan within two years, its new chairman, Burt Bacharach collaborator Hal David, said.
Brian Wilson, who stood onstage during the jam session but didn't participate, said he found his induction deeply touching.
"Music is my life. And tonight, what you're saying is that my life has been well-spent," said Wilson, who was dressed in black and maintained a blank expression throughout the evening.
McCartney, who has cited the storied Beach Boys' album Pet Sounds as an influence on the Beatles' also legendary Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, called Wilson "one of the great American geniuses."
Teen trio Hanson, who said they were intimidated by the formidable company in which they found themselves, played a rocked-up cover of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" (RealAudio excerpt of original) in tribute to the songwriter.
Also inducted were Brown, the late Curtis Mayfield, James Taylor, and Eagles songwriters Glenn Frey and Don Henley.
Rapper Sean "Puffy" Combs, who was greeted by cheers and some quiet boos from the industry audience as he took the stage, inducted Brown into the Hall.
"He's not only the hardest working man in show business; he's the longest-working man in show business, and the best-looking," said Combs, who kneeled to kiss Brown's ring as the soul legend took the stage.
After thanking God, a beaming, tuxedoed Brown reflected on how his music had changed his life. " 'Please Please Please' not only made me a big star, but it took the broom out of my hand, because I was a janitor," he said.
Fellow soul singer Bobby Womack paid tribute to Brown with a version of another early hit, "It's a Man's Man's Man's World."
"Shaft" singer Isaac Hayes inducted soul icon Curtis Mayfield, who wrote the soundtrack to another '70s blaxploitation film, "Superfly" (RealAudio excerpt of title track). Mayfield, who was paralyzed in a 1990 stage accident, died late last year.
"I know Curtis is smiling right now Shaft giving Superfly an award," Mayfield's longtime manager, Marv Heiman said, adding that he had told Mayfield of his impending induction before his death.
R&B singer Brian McKnight saluted Mayfield with a faithful version of his '60s classic "People Get Ready."
Carole King inducted fellow singer/songwriter James Taylor, explaining that his music had inspired him to write songs on her own.
"I don't know where songs come from, [but] I'm glad they come," Taylor said.
Eagles member J.D. Souther appeared in place of his bandmates, Henley and Frey, and sang the group's hit "Best of My Love."
Among the recipients of special awards were Leiber and Stoller, Neil Diamond and Jimmie Davis.
Singer-songwriter Jill Sobule sang a version of Diamond's "I'm a Believer" best known as a hit for the Monkees in tribute to the songwriter.