Songwriters Hall of Fame Chairman Jimmy Webb announced today that Drake will be the recipient of the prestigious Hal David Starlight Award, to be presented at the 42nd Annual Induction and Awards Dinner slated for Thursday, June 16 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.

Drake is one of music’s brightest new stars lauded for his songwriting prowess, melodious hooks and emotionally transparent performances. His genre-bending singing and rapping abilities earned him a recording deal with Aspire/Young Money/Cash Money in 2009, the same year The Recording Academy awarded him two Grammy® nominations ( Best Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Song) for his single “Best I Ever Had.” This opus, featured on his mixtape/EP So Far Gone, spent more weeks perched at #1 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart than any other debut single this decade.

Drake’s platinum selling debut, Thank Me Later, landed at #1 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart with nearly 450,000 sold during its first week of release. This feat led to four additional Grammy® nominations this year for Best New Artist, Best Rap Album, Best Rap Solo Performance (“Over”), and Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group (“Fancy” featuring T.I. and Swizz Beatz). Drake’s skill of commanding a diverse audience through composition solidifies his position in the pantheon of great songwriters of this generation.

“Drake shines as a talented songwriter with a unique vision,” commented SHOF Chairman and legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb, “and we are pleased to honor him with the prestigious Hal David Starlight Award.”

The Hal David Starlight Award, created in 2004, was renamed in honor of the former SHOF Chairman, Hal David, for his longtime support of young songwriters. Award recipients are gifted songwriters who are making a significant impact in the music industry via their original songs. Drake joins the prestigious company of Rob Thomas, Alicia Keys, John Mayer, John Legend, John Rzeznik, Jason Mraz and Taylor Swift – the past recipients of the Hal David Starlight Award.

This comes from an exclusive press release from SHoF



Maroon 5 in the studio

The songwriting process was carried out the way that bands tend to do it.  Basically, a band will start with a beat that everyone can agree on, then start building riffs and phrases until it sounds like a song.  Then the journey begins!  I think I miss playing live and rehearsing with a band, because watching these guys in the studio reminds me of our own rock star days (not)!

I’ll try to share in another post some of the lessons I learned by watching these professionals.  I watch these things so you don’t have to!  Here is a video from Coca-Cola that summarizes what everyone got to see.  Later.


Adam Levine and James Valentine in the studio

I’ve been enjoying being a fly-on-the-wall for Maroon 5 in the studio.  I am tuned in today to a twenty-four hour internet stream of the band’s process and progress.  They have been creating an original song from scratch, augmented by live inspiration from their fans.  They are in London, England as part of a promotional live event by Coca-Cola. It’s a global gathering!

Seriously, it’s fun stuff!  Fun for me, because I know how the studio experience feels. The highlights are good, as you can see in this you tube clip, but the “boring” parts are where you can see the actual songwriting magic happen!

I will update this article toward the end of the event.  For some reason, I feel like taking a Diet Coke break.  See ya later!




Songwriters Hall of Fame Chairman Jimmy Webb announced today that Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil will be the 2011 recipients of the esteemed Johnny Mercer Award at the 42nd Annual Induction and Awards Dinner slated for Thursday, June 16 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.

Throughout the past four decades, the melodies of Barry Mann and the lyrics of Cynthia Weil have comprised one of the most successful songwriting teams in history. Their body of work is so significant that it is often described as “a soundtrack to our lives.” The husband and wife team have written legendary songs such as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” (with Phil Spector), “On Broadway” (with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller), “Walking In The Rain,” “Kicks, Soul And Inspiration,” “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,” “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “Here You Come Again,” “Never Gonna Let You Go,” “Just Once,” and the Grammy® nominated “Don’t Know Much” (with Tom Snow) to name just a few.

“Barry and Cynthia’s massive stream of classic songs have changed the face of popular music in a way that has endured, with songs that have a straight-from -the-heart, deep appeal,” commented legendary songwriter, SHOF inductee and Chairman Jimmy Webb. “The Songwriters Hall of Fame is proud to bestow our prestigious Johnny Mercer Award upon this groundbreaking team.”

The Johnny Mercer Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Songwriters Hall of Fame, is exclusively reserved for a songwriter who has already been inducted in a prior year, and whose body of work is of such high quality and impact, that it upholds the gold standard set by the legendary Johnny Mercer.

Mann and Weil have produced lyrics and music that have an impact far beyond that of an average hit. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “Soul And Inspiration” were not just songs that launched The Righteous Brothers; they defined the genre we now call “blue eyed soul.” “On Broadway,” “Uptown” and “Only In America,” transcended early rock and roll’s romantic “moon and June” fixation. “Kicks” proved that Mann and Weil could not only write for rock bands, but that a commercial hit could address a serious issue like drugs. “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” is not only considered one of the classic rock songs of all time, but it became an anthem for Vietnam soldiers and protesters alike.

“Here You Come Again” provided country star Dolly Parton with her first crossover hit and helped country artists gain their rightful place in the world of popular music. “Just Once” launched the career vocalist James Ingram and “Don’t Know Much” reintroduced the world to the voice of Aaron Neville.

The duo have created scores for many films such as An American Tail for which they wrote the double-Grammy® winning “Somewhere Out There” with James Horner. In addition to collecting Grammys® for Song of the Year and Motion Picture or Television Song of the Year, the song also received Golden Globe and Oscar nominations and won BMI’s Most Performed Film Song Award.

Together Mann and Weil have amassed 112 pop, country and R&B awards from Broadcast Music Inc., recognizing highest performance popularity on American radio and television in a particular year and 115 Millionaire Awards, signifying radio performances of a million or more plays. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” received 14 pop awards and has been honored as the most performed song in the BMI catalogue and the most performed song of the twentieth century. It has garnered more than fourteen million performances, the first BMI song ever to achieve that milestone.

Additional recognition of Mann and Weil’s achievements include; the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Songwriters, The Clooney Foundation’s Award for Legendary Song Composition, BMI’s Robert Burton Award for the most performed country song of 1977, “Here You Come Again,” induction into the prestigious SHOF, and the 2003 Heroes Award from the New York Chapter of NARAS.  In 2010, Mann and Weil were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Past Johnny Mercer Award recipients have included songwriting giants: Phil Collins, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Paul Anka, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Carole King, Billy Joel, Jimmy Webb, Hal David, Burt Bacharach, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Paul Simon, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Stephen Sondheim, Cy Coleman, Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne.


Goodbye to baseball great Duke Snider, who died of natural causes today at age 84.

Thanks to Ozzie P, a dodger fan, for this you tube clip.

Two songs are featured here, but Terry Cashman’s “Talkin’ Baseball” hits home with me, since the song features Willie, Mickey, and the Duke!

The other song is Danny Kaye’s 1962 pop record “D-O-D-G-E-R-S (Oh Really? No, O’Malley)”

Lots of baseball songs out there, but I wanted to pay tribute to the Duke!! Slide into home, Duke! SAFE!!!



Dean and "Jimi Rocks"

Last month, on January 23, my wife and I got up real early, grabbed our cameras, and decided to take another field trip.

This time it was off to West Hollywood, where just five months earlier, Gibson Guitar Town took over the Sunset Strip. We weren’t sure how much longer this art exhibit would be on display, so we wanted to check it out before they pull them off the boulevard!

Here is a photo album of my morning field trip!  Hope you enjoy the walk!

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Multi-talented songwriter Jimmy Webb has been elected Chairman of the Board of the Songwriters Hall of Fame by its Board of Directors.

Webb’s election follows Hal David’s decision last month to step down from the SHOF Chairmanship after more than a decade of distinguished service; he will continue as an active Board Member and Chairman Emeritus. Previous SHOF leaders, in addition to David, included SHOF co-founder Johnny Mercer and Sammy Cahn.

Jimmy Webb, the Oklahoma-born son of a preacher, is a critically-acclaimed songwriting talent whose music has thrilled audiences over more than forty years with a chain of memorable hits. Webb is the only artist to ever receive Grammy awards for music, lyrics, and orchestration. He has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and, in 2003, was the recipient of the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s prestigious Johnny Mercer Award. He has been married to WLIW TV executive and popular personality Laura Savini since 2004.

Though best known for the instant classics he provided for such artists as Glen Campbell (“By The Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston”), Richard Harris (“MacArthur Park,” “Didn’t We”), The Fifth Dimension, (“Up, Up and Away,” “This Is Your Life”), The Brooklyn Bridge (“Worst That Could Happen”), Art Garfunkel (“All I Know”), Joe Cocker (“The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress”) and many more, Webb continues to write new songs that are as carefully crafted and magical as his legendary hits. Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson hit #1 in the late ’80s with a new Webb standard: “The Highwayman,” a ballad which won him yet another Grammy for Best Country Song of the Year, and a CMA Award for Single of the Year. Linda Ronstadt, who has recorded a multitude of his songs throughout her career, included four of his efforts on her double platinum album Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like The Wind, and scored a top ten in 1990 with her rendition of Webb’s “Adios.” Webb’s songs continue to grace a galaxy of major recording artists’ albums, from Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney to Urge Overkill and R.E.M.

In addition to writing songs for other artists, Webb has been releasing albums of his own for many years, including the acclaimed 2010 release Just Across The River, which features such artists as Billy Joel, Vince Gill, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson and Glen Campbell joining Webb on a selection of his songs. In 1999, Webb wrote Tunesmith, which was acclaimed as the “finest book about songwriting of our time,” by Musician magazine.

Webb remarked: “It’s truly an honor to have been elected Chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. I know that my fellow Board members all join me in thanking Hal David for eleven years of outstanding leadership – a period that saw the Songwriters Hall of Fame establish an important digital presence with its Virtual Museum and, most recently, the launch of the Songwriters Hall of Fame Gallery at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. With Hal at the helm, the Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards and Induction Dinner has become one of the most anticipated events on the music industry calendar. Up-and-coming songwriters have benefited from the ongoing SHOF workshops and showcases. With Hal’s involvement as Chairman Emeritus and the can-do spirit of our forward-thinking Board and management, the Songwriters Hall of Fame is poised to expand its role in preserving the legacy of the music creators of the past and helping to educate and inspire the songwriters of the future.”

Commenting on the SHOF Board’s choice for his successor, David said: “I have known Jimmy since he emerged as an important songwriting talent more than four decades ago. I have also been privileged to work with him as a fellow member on industry Boards of organizations advocating for creators’ rights. Jimmy’s dedication and commitment to music creators make him an excellent choice to lead the Songwriters Hall of Fame.”

This comes from an exclusive press release from SHoF


Don Kirshner, legendary music publisher and host of Rock Concert, has passed away from heart failure.  He was 76 years old.

If my life was a patchwork quilt, Don Kirshner would be responsible for a lot of the music related squares in it, as he had a hand in propelling the careers of many of my favorite music legends.  In the seventies, he hosted his own late-night show called Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, and it was one of my favorite things to watch on television back then.  It didn’t air on any particular night, so I would flip through the TV Guide and mark down when the show was coming on.  The great thing about the program was that it showcased up and coming artists in live performances, as opposed to appearances that were lip-synched.  It had vintage clips and comedy stars, but mostly it served up course after course of live music.   This memorable show was where I got my first glimpse at rock stars as they were just starting out – – including the Ramones, Kansas, Pat Benatar, Prince, the Sex Pistols, Devo, and Electric Light Orchestra.

Mr. Kirshner certainly left his mark in the world of music, and he was known by not only one nickname, but several.  Robin Leach called him “The Father of Rock and Roll” and also “The Supreme Starmaker.”  I remember the L.A. Times calling him “Mr. Music,” and Time magazine knighting him as “The Man With the Golden Ear” because he had an uncanny ability to know a hit song when he heard it.  But among those in the entertainment universe, he was dubbed affectionately as “The Ed Sullivan Of Rock.”  His late-night show alone proved that.  He even had Ed Sullivan’s stiff, piece-of-wood delivery which was parodied by Paul Shaffer on Saturday Night Live and by Dave Thomas on SCTV.  Paul Shaffer said of Kirshner, “He was such a character, so colorful.  If he loved a record, he’d call people from the studio and hold up the phone to the speaker!”

He was the music supervisor for many television programs in the sixties.  Go look at the credits for shows like Bewitched, I Dream Of Jeannie, and The Monkees, to name a few.  And there he is, creative control and all.  One time, he was bringing in refreshments to the set of The Monkees, as he liked to do once in a while.  Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones mistakenly thought Don was one of the gofers on the show.  Oops.  Another Monkees story I remember was regarding their music career.  Don picked good solid hits for them…until they started to disagree.  It was Mike Nesmith who refused to swallow that “Sugar, Sugar” would be their next big song and emphatically passed on it.  He wanted a more mature sound and said the song was cheesy, “It’s a piece of junk – I’m not doing it!”  The Monkees’ run of hits slowed down after that, and Don gave the tune to his newly created group, The Archie’s.  It became their signature song and hit number one.

More in part two, but here are two clips I remember watching when the episode aired in 1980. Not the best performance by the Police (because Sting’s voice was strained from screaming in previous shows) but it was one of the first times I saw them play a live song.

More later,


Remembering Gerry Rafferty (1947-2011)

Another notable musical talent has left the earth.  Scotsman Gerry Rafferty has passed away at the age of 63.  From the perspective of songwriting, he was brilliant with his lyrics, but he was considered a one hit wonder.  Because I grew up in the era of his popularity, I appreciated his five prominent singles.

After his debut run with the Humblebums, a folk rock group in the sixties, he and his good friend Joe Egan put together a new group called Stealers Wheel.
Lightning struck for them when they scored a number 6 Billboard hit, “Stuck In the Middle” in 1973.  It was a very catchy melody with quirky lyrics and was recorded whimsically as a homage to Bob Dylan’s singing style.  Back then, AM radio played the hell out of the Top 20, and this song is still stuck in my head with other songs like “Summer Breeze”, “Do It Again”, and “Crocodile Rock”.  But “Stuck In the Middle” would be their only hit and the group disbanded quickly.  They gave it one more honest try, but by 1975, they called it off for good.  I still like the tune, though.  Years later, it got the opportunity to be bronzed for posterity, because Quentin Tarantino chose to use it in his movie Reservoir Dogs (It’s played during the scene where Michael Madsen gets his ear cut off.  Cool.)  It has also been covered by artists Juice Newton, Eagles of Death Metal, Jeff Healey, Louise, Collin Raye, and even Canadian crooner Michael Bublé.  The last five names are a testimony that reheating a song by putting in a film can give it a new life, as long as it’s done right.   Based on his body of his work, Tarantino seems to revere the old hits as pop-culture milestones.  I agree with the sentiment.

Now comes the part in the story where Gerry Rafferty goes solo.  Anybody who remembers his biggest single, “Baker Street”, will definitely reminisce on the lustrous sax solo.  That sparkling riff was performed Raphael Ravenscroft and without it, the song might have been little more than an ordinary folky tune, as some critics have said.  The saxophone made it special.  But it became an ongoing gentleman’s disagreement between Rafferty and Ravenscroft.  With royalties and all, “Baker Street” has given Gerry an annual income of £80,000.  Raphael seems to have been a good sport considering that in 1977 he was paid £27 for his work, and the check bounced.  He chose to swallow this matter and move on, figuring that he may not have handled the riches in a responsible fashion.  Who knows?  They never resolved it.  Money is a tough issue in the music world, but credit is a valuable prize as well, and he gets praise for that, if only.

That song was also given a booster shot in 1997 when Gus Van Sant used it in his movie Good Will Hunting, and it has also been covered by numerous atrists.  Gerry Rafferty’s solo success never matched “Baker Street”, and he walked away in 1983.  But he left a trail of minor hits on the way out the door, and they sounded pretty good but faded away as did he.  By the way, just so you know, those hits were “Right Down the Line”, “Days Gone Down”, “Get It Right Next Time”, and “The Royal Mile (Sweet Darlin’)”.  He wouldn’t hire a manager and did not like to tour, and though he drew a good paycheck from his most famous song, he didn’t try to capitalize on its success.  He had been performing for about ten years, but was working on releasing one more album in 2009.

Though he chose to devote the rest of his life to his family, he also battled the bottle, and it was alcoholism that finally did him in.  He died at his home of liver failure on January 4.  It’s a sad ending, but his contributions made a lot of us smile.  Rest In Peace, Gerry Rafferty.


Remembering With Love – Teena Marie (1956-2010)

Soulful R&B songstress Teena Marie has died, as reported on December 26.  She was discovered unresponsive in her house by Alia Rose, her daughter, and had apparently died of natural causes.   The Los Angeles coroner said that her body showed no signs of trauma and no illegal drugs were found in the Pasadena home where she passed away.

She was a So Cal girl who was on my list of songwriter heroes that I would like to meet.  Her real name was Mary Christine Brockert and was born in Santa Monica on March 5, 1956.  Ever since the internet became a source of information, her age has changed a few times, but 1956 is what I always have believed to be the right one.   This songwriter and singer of hits like “Lovergirl”, “Square Biz”, and “Portuguese Love” was bestowed the nicknames “Lady T” and “Ivory Queen of Soul” and stayed true to her musical stylings, no matter what trends came along.  It was common knowledge that she was Rick James’ protégée, but her identity definitely stood on its own.  Like another one of my female song heroines, Patrice Rushen, Teena displayed a diverse range of talent.  She was a multi-instrumentalist and flourished in a recording studio.  I admired the fact that by the time she recorded her third album, Irons In the Fire (1980), she decided to write, arrange, produce and sing all her material from that time forward.

She took a short hiatus about 1994 to devote more time to raising her daughter.  I hadn’t listened to her material for a little while, just the previous songs through the eighties, which was the decade I bought most of her albums, but I truly enjoyed all of her song catalog.  The last time I saw her was on TV in a tribute to Smokey Robinson.  I taped the show and when Teena appeared on the screen, I didn’t recognize her at first.  She had dyed her hair red and was wearing tortoise shell square biz glasses, and she didn’t look like the lady I knew.  But as soon as she started to sing the Miracles’ hit “Ooo Baby Baby”, her beauty was revealed through her illustrious voice.  She still had that soulful lilt and flow that I always cherished in her music.  By the look on Smokey’s face, he, too, was captivated.

Teena recorded 13 studio albums, and it took a good 25 years for her to crack the top ten with 2004’s La Doña, which ranked at number 6 on Billboard.  “Lovergirl” from 1984 was her highest placing single at number 4, but I was always fond of “Ooo La La La”, which hit number 1, only on the R&B chart.  And to dig down deeper, “Love Me Down Easy” from 1986.  Her biography and other information can be found at her offical site.  I don’t feel the need to write a book report on her life, I just wanted to share my thoughts about the Lady.

Her songs are part of my life’s soundtrack, and they have always made me feel good inside.   She will be missed by all of her fans, of which my own lady and I are two.   Teena Marie was 54.   Another talented artist has left this earth, but she did leave wonderful gifts that her generation can listen to and feel her special warmth.  May she groove on forever more.  Rest in peace and love.

Here is her biggest charting hit –