At 20, Swift is the youngest person ever to win BMI's country songwriter of the year honor. However, this is her third consecutive year to claim the top song.
BMI, a major performance rights organization, staged the black-tie celebration in the capacious and lavishly decorated fourth-floor parking garage of its Music Row office building. The BMI Country Awards are a major event during
Among those attending were Swift,
BMI CEO Del Bryant, vice president of writer-publisher relations Jody Williams and assistant vice president Clay Bradley shared hosting duties.
Bryant welcomed the guests, greeting some of them by name. He praised his predecessor at BMI, Frances Preston, who sat in the audience.
"She is a visionary," he noted. "She is a pioneer. She is in the [Country Music] Hall of Fame."
Bryant joked with Urban that he stood ready to sign his and his wife Nicole Kidman's daughter, Sunday Rose, to a songwriter's contract. And he alerted guests to the fact that they were drinking wine from Kix Brooks' Arrington Vineyards.
The focal point of the evening was the presentation of BMI's Icon Award to retired songwriter, producer, engineer and recent Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Billy Sherrill.
Dubbing the prodigiously-talented Sherrill "a true renaissance man," Bryant, lauded the honoree for "taking traditional country songs and adding pop elements" to turn them into hits.
Artists who benefited from this production approach ranged from Tanya Tucker,
"If you love George Jones," Bryant asserted, "you love Billy Sherrill."
Bryant noted Sherrill has won more BMI songwriting awards than anyone else in history and has been named songwriter of the year eight times.
In a video commentary, Sherrill's frequent co-writer and fellow producer, Norro Wilson, said Sherrill advised him to disregard musical conventions when he was making a record. "If the song needs it," he recalled Sherrill saying, "put it on."
Also by video, George Jones credited most of his success to Sherrill, and Bobby Braddock, who co-wrote Jones' biggest hit, "He Stopped Loving Her Today," and said he never regarded the song as anything special until Sherrill took hold of it.
To give the audience a sampling of Sherrill's genius, Bryant summoned George Strait, Faith Hill, Ronnie Dunn and Martina McBride to the stage. Each then sang a complete song Sherrill had been instrumental in making into a classic.
Dunn began with an affecting cover of Charlie Rich's "The Most Beautiful Girl." McBride followed with a subdued and emotionally on-target reading of Tammy Wynette's "'Til I Can Make It on My Own."
Strait, dressed in a suit with a loosened tie and sans his trademark cowboy hat, caught perfectly the wistfulness of "My Elusive Dream," the David Houston/Tammy Wynette hit from 1967. Hill wrapped up the showcase with a faithful and solid rendering of Wynette's "Stand by Your Man."
Sherrill not only produced the original hits on these songs, he also co-wrote all of them.
Notoriously camera shy, the ailing Sherrill sat impassively as the tribute played out. He was no more demonstrative when he was assisted to the stage to accept his award. (Tucker kissed him on the cheek as he rose to go up.)
"I'm not a good talker," he said. "This is overwhelming to me. I thank all my co-writers -- Norro Wilson, Steve Davis -- all the people who've helped me." Handing the microphone to Bryant, Sherrill added, Oh, hell ... thank you." With that, he left the stage.
Williams and Bradley then returned to the stage to hand out more awards. Bradley pointed out that 19 of the recipients were receiving an award for the first time. One of these was Bubba Strait, George's son, who scored for co-writing "Living for the Night."
Besides "You Belong With Me," Swift had three other winning songs:
Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville took the publisher of the year prize on the strength of having 16 winning songs in this year's lineup.
Here's a list of winners at the 2010 BMI Country Awards:
Songwriter of the Year: Taylor Swift
Publisher of the Year: Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville
Song of the Year: "You Belong With Me" Writers: Liz Rose, Taylor Swift
BMI Icon: Billy Sherrill
"Best Days of Your Life" Writer: Taylor Swift
"Fifteen" Writer: Taylor Swift
"I'll Just Hold On"
"It Happens" Writers: Kristian Bush, Bobby Pinson
"A Little More Country Than That" Writer: Wynn Varble
"Living for the Night" Writers: Dean Dillon, Bubba Strait
"Lost You Anyway"
"Nothin' to Die For" Writer: Lee Thomas Miller
"One in Every Crowd" Writers: Ira Dean, Eddie Montgomery
"People Are Crazy" Writers: Bobby Braddock, Troy Jones
"That's How Country Boys Roll" Writer: Dallas Davidson
"Where I'm From" Writer: Patrick Davis
"White Horse" Writers: Liz Rose, Taylor Swift
"You Belong With Me" Writers: Liz Rose, Taylor Swift