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REM reunites at Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony honoring Timbaland and Steely Dan

NEW YORK (AP) — A comet must have landed during the 2024 Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The members of REM joked for just a few hours before it would take “a comet” to bring the band one last time to perform together. Yet there they were, reunited Thursday evening at the gala at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.

The annual event honored a talented group of songwriters, including REM, Steely Dan and Timbaland, who conducted a medley of his massive hits.

REM’s Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe were behind numerous alt-rock hits such as “Everybody Hurts” and “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” On Thursday they amazed the audience with the undisputed highlight of the evening: reuniting for an acoustic version of ‘Losing My Religion’.

“We are REM,” Stipe said. “And this is what we did.”

Stipe highlighted their strength as a group and early efforts to own their master recordings and split songwriting credits equally. “There are a lot of people who believe in us,” he said.

Jason Isbell covered the group’s hit, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” Afterwards he joked, “I’ve never said so many words so fast in my entire life.”

Nashville hitmaker Hillary Lindsey, who helped write “Girl Crush” for Little Big Town and “Jesus, Take the Wheel” for Carrie Underwood, was inducted along with Dean Pitchford, who helped Kenny Loggins with the megahit “Footloose” and co-wrote “Fame” and “Holding on to a Hero.”

The Bacon Brothers, the folk-rock duo of actor Kevin Bacon and Michael Bacon, introduced Pitchford with a rollicking take on “Footloose,” tambourine and all. Denise Williams took off her shoes to dance as she performed her Pitchford-penned hit “Let’s Hear It For the Boy’ played.

“It’s been 40 years, can you believe it,” Pitchford said. “I am very grateful… Most of all, thank you for listening to me.” He then sang his composition ‘Once Before I Go’.

Irving Azoff led the celebration of Steely Dan, telling a story about the legendary band submitting a blank glossy image as promotional artwork.

“To say they had a great sense of humor would be an understatement,” he said.

Co-founded by Donald Fagan and the late Walter Becker, Steely Dan is known for their classic rock songs, including “Do It Again” and “Hey Nineteen.”

“I would like to thank my partner Walter Becker, wherever he may be,” Fagan said in his acceptance speech.

Phish frontman Trey Anastasio covered Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne” on “Reelin’ in the Years.” Their “real genius” is their songs, Anastasio said.

Nile Rodgers presented SZA with the Hal David Starlight Award for “gifted young songwriters making a significant impact in the music industry.”

“There wouldn’t be a music industry if there weren’t songs,” Rodgers told the artists and industry professionals in the room. “Everything starts with a song.”

Rodgers received thunderous applause as he left the question to say, “Spotify, we need you to make it a point that songwriters are your priority.”

“This means the most to me,” SZA said in front of the crowd, which included her parents. “I have a hard time with the artist thing. But writing is where I felt like a person, that I had value… it went beyond that, was I beautiful, was I liked.

Receiving the award “validates my whole career,” she said before leading the audience in a stripped-down version of her hit “Nobody Gets Me.”

Carrie Underwood honored Lindsey, one of her longtime songwriters whom she called “the queen of modern Nashville songwriters,” before jumping into a full-band rendition of the tearjerker “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”

Lindsey joked that the first song she wrote was “probably about poops and boogers and stuff,” and later described a childhood spent singing to everything in the house, including “my mom’s tampons.”

“Country done come to town, y’all,” she said, before playing a short medley of songs she co-wrote, including Lady Gaga’s “Million Reasons” and a duet with Keith Urban on his “Blue Ain’t Your Color” . .”

Missy Elliott shouted out the late rapper Magoo for introducing her to Timbaland in an energetic introduction to her longtime writing and production partner, noting that he had “a gift.”

“Timbaland literally changed the cadence of the time because he also treated hip-hop records like R&B records,” she said. “He picked up the hooks and created a different sound.”

Timbaland told the audience that the songwriting recognition was the best award he could receive.

“I don’t really talk that much. I just talk to my music,” he said, focusing his speech on his collaborators and his family, including his grandmother who had him work in her home writing “One in a Million” for the late singer Aaliyah.

“I want to thank my little girl, rest in peace, I hope you’re watching,” he said.

He conducted a group of musicians in a medley of some of his most recognizable songs, including Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody,” Ginuwine’s “Pony,” Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” and “Suit & Tie,” Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On.” Beyoncé’s ‘Drunk in Love’ and Nelly Furtado’s ‘Promiscuous’.

Paul Williams presented Diane Warren with the Johnny Mercer Award, the highest honor given at the event, and joked that artificial intelligence is “worried about Diane Warren.” Andra Day sang “Stand Up for Something,” written by Warren, who was previously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001.

“I have to thank my mother for being the first to prove me wrong,” Warren said. “Songwriting isn’t something I do, it’s who I am.”

The evening concluded with a performance celebrating the 40th anniversary of another song written by Warren: DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night.

Ahead of Thursday’s festivities, country star Cindy Walker was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Walker wrote songs performed by some of the biggest names in country music history and beyond, including Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, BB King, Cher, Glen Campbell, Gene Autry, Bing Crosby and Roy Orbison.

The Songwriters Hall of Fame was founded in 1969 to honor those who create popular music. A songwriter with a notable catalog of songs is eligible for induction 20 years after a song’s first commercial release. Some already in the room include Gloria Estefan, Carole King, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Brian Wilson, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Lionel Richie, Bill Withers, Neil Diamant and Phil Collins.

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