Songs, specifically the ones that become smash hits, were the focal point of the Grammy Foundation's "A Song is Born" program on Jan. 23. Seventeen artists, most of them writers rather than interpreters, performed an astounding number of Top 40 tunes, Grammy winners and beloved tracks.
Initially billed as a 90-minute concert, the four-hour show at the Wilshire Ebell Theater had numerous highlights. Bonnie Raitt thanked the writers of "I Can't Make You Love Me," Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin, who demonstrated the original uptempo honky tonk version of the song that sounded like a polka. Kris Kristofferson, who griped that 77 is a tough age, silenced the crowd with a chilling rendition of "For the Good Times." JD Souther, the country-rock oracle, gathered Dan Wilson (Grammy winner for his Dixie Chicks and Adele songs), Joy Williams (Grammy winner for Civil Wars) and the night's band leader, guitarist Waddy Wachtel, for a harmony rich rendition of the hit he co-wrote with the Eagles, "New Kid in Town."
And Paul Williams, humorous as always, performed what he called a once in a lifetime medley of two themes -- "Evergreen" and "The Love Boat" -- before delivering a touching version of "The Rainbow Connection."
"Their voice is our voice, but more clear," Grammy Foundation senior VP Kristen Madsen said about songwriters early in the the night's program. "Their truth is our truth, but more fierce."
The audience went home with an assortment of odd pieces of trivia. "(Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay" is Otis Redding's observation about the ferries going from Oakland to Sausalito and not ships in San Francisco, co-writer Steve Cropper said. "Up, Up and Away" met some resistance at radio, especially in Jimmy Webb's hometown of Oklahoma City, because programmers thought it was about drugs. Prior to writing the Eminem-Rihanna hit "Love the Way You Lie," Skylar Grey made money by editing porn.
Medley: "Do Wah DDiddy"/"Da Doo Ron Ron"/"Leader of the Pack"/"Sugar, Sugar"/"Chapel of Love"
"Be My Baby"
"I Honestly Love You"
"River Deep Mountain High" (sung by Ryan Shaw)
Maybe April (Grammy Camp attendees)
"Loving You Still"
Medley: "Evergreen"/"The Love Boat"
"Up, Up and Away"
"Not Ready to Make Nice"
JD Souther and Joy Williams
Souther, Wilson and Williams
"New Kid in Town"
"Someone Like You"
"Come to Me"
"Not Over You"
"Love the Way You Lie"
Rzeznik, Gray and DeGraw
Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin
"The House That Built Me"
"I Can't Make You Love Me"
"Nick of Time"
"Me and Bobby McGee"
"Help Me Make It Through the Night"
"For the Good Times"
Steve Cropper and Gavin DeGraw
"In the Midnight Hour"
"(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay"
"I'm Every Woman"
"You're All I Need to Get By" (with Ryan Shaw)
"Ain't No Mountain High Enough"