Awards

Roberta Flack, Klymaxx & More Among Women Songwriters Hall of Fame's First Class

Roberta Flack
Courtesy of Atlantic Records

Roberta Flack

Valerie Simpson, Tawatha Agee, Deniece Williams, Jeri Keever "Bunny" Hull, Mary Chapin Carpenter & Veryl Howard will also be inducted June 25, along with two more yet to be announced songwriters.

On June 25, the Women Songwriters Hall of Fame will induct 10 female songwriters in their first annual awards show.

According to a press statement, the ceremony will pay homage to women "whose body of work represents the best of heritage and legacy of modern American music." The inaugural inductees are Roberta Flack, Valerie Simpson, Tawatha Agee, Klymaxx, Deniece Williams, Jeri Keever "Bunny" Hull, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Veryl Howard, plus two more to be announced.

The Women Songwriters Hall of Fame strives to commemorate and acknowledge the work of women who were sometimes overlooked by the Songwriters Hall of Fame. "We need the [Songwriters Hall of Fame] to understand that women have been left out of the conversation way too long," says Janice McLean DeLoatch, executive producer and founder of the WSHOF. "It's 2021! With people like Dionne Warwick, Deniece Williams, Roberta Flack -- we all know those names! Why are they just getting their flowers?"

Williams co-wrote her breakthrough hit, "Free," but Warwick and Flack are almost entirely known as interpreters. Warwick received the Songwriters Hall of Fame's Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award in 2001.

Since its founding in 1970, the Songwriters Hall of Fame has honored only 31 women out of its 439 inductees. (In 2002, Simpson was inducted alongside her late husband Nick Ashford). In June 2022, this number will increase to 33 women when Mariah Carey and Annie Lennox are inducted at the 51st annual awards gala, which has been postponed twice because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(The raw numbers can be a bit misleading: The Isley Brothers, who are also being honored in the next class, consists of six male members. The Neptunes, also in that class, consists of two male members.)

In an email to Billboard, Linda Moran, president and CEO of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, said that she and her colleagues are unfamiliar with the Women Songwriters Hall of Fame and declined to comment on the organization.

While DeLoatch aims to celebrate the contributions of women songwriters whose recognition is overdue, she stresses that the event is inclusive of all women regardless of race or genre. "It is not meant just to celebrate Black women songwriters," she explains. "It is to celebrate women of all nationalities, all colors, all backgrounds."

The WSHOF will eventually branch out to include merit awards in different areas of the music industry. It will also serve as a resource for developing new songwriters through workshops, showcases and scholarships.

"This is an invitation to everyone, even the recording industry, the publishing companies, the music labels," says DeLoatch.

The 2021 WSHOF awards show will be held June 25 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., at 4 p.m. ET. Tickets are available for purchase here.