For a few transcendent minutes at the BMI country music awards show Tuesday evening (Nov. 10), the denizens of Music Row got a chance to ponder the difference between hits that keep on coming -- and going -- and songs built on emotional bedrock: in this case, the exemplary songs of
The performance rights organization honored Kristofferson with its BMI Icon award during ceremonies held at its Nashville headquarters to recognize the 50 most-performed country songs of the past year.
Alternately grinning and dabbing at his eyes, Kristofferson sat enraptured at a table near the stage while
Kristofferson also penned the classics
Del Bryant, BMI's president and CEO and host for the evening, recalled that he was a teenager living at home with his songwriter parents, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, when he first met Kristofferson.
Bryant recited some of Kristofferson's achievements before he turned to the perilous and not quite respectable trade of songwriting in the late 1960s: college athlete, Golden Gloves boxer, member of Phi Beta Kappa, Rhodes Scholar, U.S. Army captain and helicopter pilot.
Soon after coming to Nashville, Bryant noted, the young hotshot was sweeping floors and emptying ashtrays at the Columbia recording studios. Legend has it, Bryant continued, that in an effort to gain
Bryant observed that Johnny Cash once said of Kristofferson, "He makes me want to write better songs" and that Caesar Chavez, leader of the farm workers union, declared that Kristofferson is "steadfastly concerned for the underdog."
Said Nelson from his perch on the stage, "Everything he writes is a standard, and we've just got to live with that."
After leaving Nashville, Kristofferson developed an entirely new career as a movie and television actor. He won a Golden Globe award in 1977 for his role opposite Barbra Streisand in A Star Is Born.
In spite of his reputation for eloquence, Kristofferson had surprisingly little to say when he came forward to accept his award. After voicing his appreciation to friends who had helped him along the way, he growled, "I want to thank Vince and Patty and Willie for making me cry at my table."
Bryant noted that Brooks & Dunn had won more awards than any other act both from Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music and that they had sold more records than any other duo except Simon & Garfunkel.
"This is the reason I came to town -- to write songs," said Kix Brooks. "Receiving this award is kind of the top of the mountain."
Dunn was less serious, telling Bryant, "I just appreciate you not showing any of those pictures of [my] bad hair."
Bryant pointed out to the several hundred guests that they were drinking wine from Brooks' Arrington Vineyards.
Fans who stood across the street from the BMI entrance spotted a veritable constellation of stars streaming into the building. Among these were Swift,
BMI's lobby, where the pre-awards cocktail party was held, was festooned with portraits of Kristofferson. Guests mingled there for an hour before ascending to a sixth floor parking garage that had been transformed into a glittering ballroom.
The Belleville Outfit, a six-piece band from Austin, Texas, provided splendidly eclectic dinner music that ranged from "Listen to the Mocking Bird" to "Putting on the Ritz." It was the band's second year to entertain at the event.
Many of the guests left the party after the Kristofferson presentation. Those who stayed heard songwriter of the year Pinson quip, "We just do this [songwriting] to keep from going to jail. ... This is the most fun you can have in a parking garage."
Back downstairs in the lobby, a band featuring Country Music Hall of Fame members
Here is the complete list of BMI's most-performed country songs:
"Back When I Knew It All" Gary Hannan, Phil O'Donnell
"Better as a Memory" Lady Goodman
"Don't Think I Can't Love You"
"God Must Be Busy" Clint Daniels, Michael Heeney
"Here" Jeffrey Steele
"Home" Alan Chang, Amy Foster
"I Saw God Today" Rodney Clawson, Monty Criswell, Wade Kirby
"Let It Go" Tom Douglas, Bill Luther, Aimee Mayo
"Love Story" Taylor Swift
"River of Love" Billy Burnette, Shawn Camp, Dennis Morgan
"She Never Cried in Front of Me" Toby Keith, Bobby Pinson
"What Kinda Gone" (Second Award) Chip Davis