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R.E.M. reunites at Songwriters Hall of Fame event

By MARIA SHERMAN, Associated Press
Published: June 20, 2024, 6:02am
2 Photos
Inductee Donald Fagan, left, of Steely Dan, receives his award from Trey Anastasio at the Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala on June 13.
Inductee Donald Fagan, left, of Steely Dan, receives his award from Trey Anastasio at the Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala on June 13. (Photos by Evan Agostini/Invision) Photo Gallery

NEW YORK — A comet must have landed at the 2024 Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The members of R.E.M. had joked only hours before it would take “a comet” to get the band to perform together one last time. Yet there they were, reunited during the gala at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City Thursday night.

The annual event celebrated a talented group of songwriters that included R.E.M., Steely Dan and Timbaland, who conducted a medley of his massive hits.

R.E.M.’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 stunned audiences with the undisputed highlight of the night: reuniting for an acoustic version of “Losing My Religion.”

“We are R.E.M.,” Stipe said. “And this is what we did.”

Stipe highlighted their strength as a group and early endeavors to own their master recordings and split songwriting credits equally. “There are a lot of people who believed 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).” Afterward he joked, “I’ve never said that many words that quickly in my whole 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 “Footloose” and co-wrote “Fame” and “Holding Out For a Hero.”

The Bacon Brothers, the folk-rock duo of actor Kevin Bacon and Michael Bacon, introduced Pitchford with a rambunctious take on “Footloose,” tambourine and all. Denise Williams removed her shoes to dance while belting her Pitchford-penned hit, “Let’s Hear It For the Boy.”

“It’s been 40 years, can you believe it,” Pitchford said. “I’m deeply grateful … Above all, thank you for hearing 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 their promo artwork.

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

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

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

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

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

“There would be no music industry if there were no songs,” Rodgers told the artists and industry professionals in the room. “Everything begins with a song.”

Rodgers received roaring applause when he veered off the prompter to comment, “Spotify, we need you to make a point of songwriters being your priority.”

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“This means the most to me,” SZA said in front of the crowd that included her parents. “I struggle at the artist thing. But writing is where I felt like a person, that I had value … it was beyond, was I pretty, was I liked.”

Receiving the award “validates my entire career,” she said before leading the crowd in her hit, “Nobody Gets Me.”

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

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