NEW YORK: Lionel Richie, Tom Petty and other top-selling musicians have a message for songwriters who are just starting out— follow your creative instincts.
The artists were honored Thursday night by the Songwriters Hall of Fame at a New York dinner that was full of star performers but, in keeping with the behind-the-scenes role of composers, was lower profile than many other music awards galas with no live television coverage.
The Hall of Fame inducted Petty along with disco titan Nile Rodgers and his late counterpart Bernard Edwards, English literary rocker Elvis Costello, slain soul legend Marvin Gaye and Chip Taylor, who performed his signature 50-year-old song “Wild Thing” with his three granddaughters.
Richie—welcomed by Jennifer Hudson, who sang “Still” from his band the Commodores—received the Hall of Fame’s most prestigious prize, given to recognize achievement by a songwriter who has already been inducted.
“This is the best night of my entire life as a songwriter,” said the 66-year-old Richie, who took to the piano himself to perform his 1984 hit “Hello.”
Despite the runaway success of “Hello,” Richie said he came to resent being classified as a balladeer and chose simply to follow his artistic senses.
“I developed into something that even I did not know who I was,” he said. “All the songs that I created were the songs that they told me would ruin my career.”
Richie said he eventually told music industry figures, “Let’s stay out of the category business and get into the music business.”