Of the tens of thousands of successful songwriters of our era, there are fewer than 400 inductees who are enshrined in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Four of those 400 songwriting geniuses came together for a songwriting roundtable, hosted by Hall of Fame Chairman Jimmy Webb at the Grammy Museum last week.
The purpose of the event was to let us music journalists, music lovers and USC pop music students in on what inspires songwriters to create — specifically, what inspired many of the creations of songwriting heavyweights Bill Withers, Al Hammond, Jeff Barry and Charlie Fox. Each has written and recorded dozens of songs/megahits that have stood the test of time: They’ve been relentlessly covered by other artists, sung on road trips and around campfires, used in commercials and for auditions — and been the subjects — or answers — on trivia-driven game shows à la “Jeopardy.”
Leading the foursome was multiple Grammy-winning recipient Bill Withers, who as one of the leading singer-songwriters of the 1970s and 1980s, successfully fused his gospel, R&B and jazz roots with soft rock, which resulted in “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lovely Day” and the anthemic “Lean On Me.”
In the capable hands of singer, songwriter, daughter Kori Withers, with her soft-and-sweet range, Withers’ two songs emerged as new standards for the beautiful and gracious Ms. Withers, who was ably accompanied by her guitarist.
The four songwriters at this event went round after round, singing and playing their respective selections. Al Hammond, who sings and plays guitar with both passion and purpose, brought along a few of his collection of torch songs, like “The Air That I Breathe,” “When I Need You,” “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” and “One Moment in Time.”
Fun-loving songwriter Jeff Barry can lay claim to having concocted scores of ‘girl-group’ classics, many of which he reveled in leading audience-participation style, like “Be My Baby,” “Then He Kissed Me,” Chapel of Love,” “Leader of the Pack” and the nonsensical “Da Doo Ron Ron.”
Now if Barry is the girl-group king, then surely Charlie Fox is the TV show guru, creating some of the most memorable theme songs, among them “Happy Days,” “Laverne and Shirley,” “Love American Style,” “Wonder Woman and “The Love Boat.”
The event was a fun walk down memory lane for the mostly senior citizen crowd.