BMI 2010 Awards: John Fogerty, Taylor Swift, RedOne honored at annual songwriters ceremony
After accepting the imposingly named BMI Icon Award on Tuesday night, rocker John Fogerty strapped on a guitar and blazed like a bullet train through a brief sampling of the even more imposing songbook that earned him the career honor at the performing rights organization's annual dinner at the Beverly Wilshire hotel.
“I got a little scared with that ‘icon’ stuff,” the 64-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member said good-naturedly just before peeling off nearly a dozen rock classics such as “Green River,” “Travelin' Band,” “Up Around the Bend,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Fortunate Son” and “Proud Mary,” along with a couple of newer tunes for several hundred fellow songwriters and other members of Broadcast Music Inc., the organization that collects and distributes publishing royalties to songwriters.
As this year’s Icon honoree, Fogerty joins a class of celebrated songwriters that includes Paul Simon, Brian Wilson, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Carlos Santana, the Jacksons and Dolly Parton.
Shortly before the ceremony, Fogerty told me that his interest in songwriting was spurred when he was 3, and his mother gave him a children’s recording of “Camptown Races” and “Oh! Susanna,” taking time to point out the name of the writer of those two American folk standards: Stephen Foster.
“I’ve thought about that a lot over the years,” he said. “I don’t know why she did that, but after that I was always attracted to great songwriters, people like Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, who was one of my favorites, Cole Porter and George Gershwin. When I saw the  movie ‘Night and Day’ about Cole Porter, as a kid I thought, ‘Hey, that’s pretty good -- they made a movie about this guy. He must be important.’ ”
Fogerty made it a family affair, with his sons Shane and Tyler strumming behind him, along with members of his eight-piece band (including Southland roots-rock stalwart James Intveld), while giving shout-outs from the stage to his wife, Julie, and their daughter, Kelsey.
Other key winners at the ceremony, which recognizes the 50 songs by BMI writers that received the most exposure in the previous year, included Lady Gaga collaborator RedOne, who was named songwriter of the year. And Taylor Swift's “Love Story” won the pop song of the year award for being played more than any other.
“I just think it’s amazing,” Swift told me shortly after her arrival, “to see something go from just a glimmer of an idea as I was sitting on the floor in my bedroom and comparing myself to Romeo and Juliet because my dad didn’t like a guy I wanted to date. I ran to my room, slammed the door and then started writing this song, and now I’m here tonight, getting to wear a sparkly dress.” As she told the audience upon collecting her award, “I’m not much given to fits of temper, but that was one of the few actual tantrums I threw…. So thank you for rewarding that behavior.”
The behavior that BMI's president and chief executive, Del Bryant, noted while handing Swift her statuette acknowledged her presence among Time magazine's latest list of the 100 most influential people on the planet, and how she took time during her performance at the Time 100 ceremony in New York to focus attention on the plight of those most dramatically affected by the recent flooding in Nashville. She's also been one of the biggest single donors to relief efforts in the wake of the extensive destruction caused when the Cumberland River overflowed its banks.
RedOne also talked about the quirks of the creative process as he tried to digest an award in which his songs, including “Fire Burning,” “Just Dance,” “LoveGame” and “Poker Face,” hit the charts in a big away, thanks to his teaming with the woman who turned into one of the year’s big pop sensations.
The Moroccan-born musician, who notched his first successes in Sweden before moving to New York and falling in with Gaga’s camp, said he considers his craft a 50-50 split between inspiration and perspiration.
“For 15 years, I struggled just to pay the rent,” he said at a vacated table after the dinner as concert guests were filtering out of the banquet room. “During that time, I worked to get better and better and better. You have to master your craft, and then have perfect timing.
“When my manager suggested that I go meet with this new girl, we went to a studio and the first day we wrote ‘Boys, Boys, Boys.’ I said, ‘I don’t care if she gets signed, I have to work with her, because of her passion.’ I thought she was going to be big, and thank God I was right!” he said with a grin that seemed to be epoxyed across his face.
Among several first-time award recipients was BC Jean Carlson, the San Diego writer of Beyoncé’s hit “If I Were a Boy.” Asked how her song, which she had recorded on her own, found its way to the pop and R&B diva, Carlson said: “You know, I’m not even sure. I think Tony [Gad], the song’s other writer, got it to her.”
When I complimented her for choosing the correct verb tense for her song -- unlike Chad Kroeger’s “If Today Was Your Last Day,” another of the songs honored Tuesday -- Carlson’s face lighted up: “We went around and around about that!” she said. “He thought it should be 'was.' But I won. I always do,” she added with a giggle.
It’s hard to argue with her: The attention the song has brought the whisky-voiced singer and songwriter has landed her a recording contract with J Records, where she’s now at work with producer Clive Davis on an album that just might make her name as well-known as her breakthrough song.
-- Randy LewisPhoto: Taylor Swift, left, with BMI Icon award recipient John Fogerty at the 58th annual BMI Pop Awards in Beverly Hills. Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
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