Tom Petty did something at April 23's ASCAP Pop Awards that he rarely does on the concert stage -- he ad-libbed.
Songwriting, he told a full Loews Hollywood Hotel ballroom of music publishers, songwriters, and artists, “is the job most people in the band don't want. It's long, lonely work -- you sit there waiting for magic.
“My generation used it to speak to the world, to put in our two cents about the way the world should work and how we should be treated. Through my heroes, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, I learned what a good song might be.”
He insisted he had never changed over his 40-year career. “I'm still just a shitkicker from Gainesville. I just have a lot nicer house.”
Petty was honored with the ASCAP Founders Award at the 31st annual edition of the Pop Awards, which celebrated 2013's most performed songs in the ASCAP repertory. Browne presented Petty with the award, praising him for “a defiance in his songs” and their “uncommon complexity and depth, an inspiration for rebels and lovers for all time.”
Lucinda Williams and her band performed a tribute to Petty and the Heartbreakers, playing slowed down version of “Rebels” and a ragged run-through of “Running Down a Dream.”
The Petty ceremony was in the middle of the night, separating the honors for songwriters and publishing companies. “Blurred Lines,” written by Clifford "T.I." Harris, Robin Thicke, and Pharrell Williams, was named song of the year. Max Martin was songwriter of the year for “Beauty and a Beat,” “Daylight,” “Roar” and other hits; it's his fourth consecutive honor.
Publisher of the year honors wound up in a tie -- 18 award-winning songs each -- between Sony/ATV and Warner/Chappell. Dr. Luke's Prescription Songs was named independent publisher of the year. Fun. Received the ASCAP Vanguard Award.
“For us it was always about being a band, not hits,” fun. singer and songwriter Nate Ruess said. “To other artists [I say] don't look at the charts. Make albums.”
Besides Williams, Aloe Blacc and Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger performed their hit for Avicii, “Wake Me Up”; Greg Holden opened the show with the Phillip Phillips hit he cowrote, “Home”; and Mary Lambert performed “She Keeps Me Warm.” Dr. Luke, Max Martin, Miguel, and Zedd were among the honorees on hand to accept their awards.
To celebrate its 100th year, songs from ASCAP's list of its 100 biggest hits were played between speeches and during walk-ups -- Marvin Gaye's “Sexual Healing,” Eurythmics' “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and Martha and the Vandellas' “Dancing in the Street” among them.
And as much as the night is about copyrights, their protection and earnings, Petty reminded the crowd: “Let's make money, but remember, the art and the truth is just a little more important.”
A complete list of winners is available at www.ascap.com/popawards.