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Gamble and Huff honored at this year's BMI Pop Awards

May 20, 2009 |  6:03 pm


In case you didn't already know, "American Idol" mania has completely infiltrated the musical zeitgeist of America. Millions of people huddled around their televisions Tuesday night to watch the big vocal showdown between Kris Allen and Adam Lambert on "American Idol." And across town, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, "Idol" alums Chris Daughtry and Jordin Sparks attended this year’s BMI Pop Awards, which honors the songwriters and publishers of the last year’s top pop songs (Daughtry received a BMI Pop Award for “Over You”). Jason Castro -- the dreadlocked fourth place finalist from "Idol," Season 7 -- was also on hand, posing for cameras at the event’s red carpet.

But it was Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff who were the true American Idols, er, icons of the night. The songwriting and record production team received this year’s BMI Icon award. 

“It’s beyond our wildest dreams,” Huff said, adding that he planned to place the award next to his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one. “We’ve been with BMI a long time. They’ve always been wonderful to us. We’re very honored and humbled by this.”

During their speech, Gamble poked fun at their unsuccessful attempt to sign with BMI’s rival ASCAP:
“We tried to go to ASCAP, but we never got a phone call back.”

In four decades, the pair have produced more than 170 gold and platinum records, including hits like “Me and Mrs. Jones,” “Love Train” and ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way." If you don’t know them by now, youat least sang or danced to the songs they’ve penned. They have, after all, been featured in dozens of commercials. And before business hustler Donald Trump was walking in slow-motion to the soulful/funk tune of “For the Love of Money” in the opening credits of “The Apprentice,” the O’Jays were performing the '70s hit in polyester suits on TV’s across America.

Current musical acts took the stage to honor the duo's contribution to America’s mixtape, including Michael Bublé, offering his rendition of their classic "Me and Mrs. Jones." Gavin DeGraw performed the duo's "If You Don't Know Me by Now" and Estelle sashayed across the stage singing the pair’s “Don't Leave Me This Way."

“They’re amazing songwriters,” Estelle said before the show. “They’re behind almost every single Motown hit. Ever. It’s an honor for me to sing [Don’t Leave Me This Way] tonight. It’s a fantastic song. A personal favorite for me so I hope I don’t screw it up.”

Gamble and Huff weren’t the only ones honored at the 57th annual awards ceremony. The songwriter of the year award resulted in a record-breaking, eight-way tie between Chris Brown, Colbie Caillat (who also received BMI’s song of the year award for her 2007 hit “Bubbly”),  Alan Chang, Polow Da Don, T-Pain, Matchbox Twenty's Paul Doucette and Brian Yale, and Maroon 5's Adam Levine; each having contributed two songs to the 50 most-performed list. And country singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, wearing a white strapless tiered dress, received lots of praise from BMI’s President and CEO Del Bryant. Swift, who is currently headlining her first tour, makes a stop Friday at the Staples Center, received a BMI pop award for her crossover hit "Teardrops on My Guitar" and the BMI president's award. 

Old favorites were also recognized. Gary L. Jackson, Raynard Miner and Carl William Smith took home their second award for Michael McDonald's "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher." And Cyndi Lauper’s "Time After Time" earned its third BMI pop award ... and it just happens to be a song that has been featured on "American Idol."

-- Yvonne Villareal

Photo of Leon Huff, left, and Kenneth Gamble by Kevin Winter/Getty Images