Donald Lawrence was named BMI Songwriter of the Year at the performing rights organization’s annual Christian Music Awards held Saturday night, April 18, at the company’s Nashville offices. “Never Would Have Made It,” co-written by pastor Marvin Sapp and Matthew Brownie was named BMI’s Christian song of the year, and Universal Music Publishing Group won Christian publisher of the year for the second consecutive year.
“I’m so excited about winning this award tonight. It caught me off guard,” Lawrence told Billboard after collecting his honor. “To come to this wonderful event with all of these amazing songwriters, I’m just really honored. Every time I win anything for songwriting, I think about my aunt who spoke over me when I was younger and said I was going to be a songwriter. Anytime it’s something to do with songwriting, I’m honored. It’s part of my fabric.”
Lawrence was honored for “Giants,” recorded by Donald Lawrence Presents the Tri-City Singers, and “Livin'” recorded by the legendary Clark Sisters. In January, Lawrence was saluted at the BMI Trailblazers of Gospel ceremony.
During the evening, BMI honored the songwriters and publishers of the most performed songs in five categories: Christian rock, contemporary Christian, inspirational, urban gospel and Southern gospel. BMI VP Jody Williams, senior director Thomas Cain and associate director Beth Mason presented the honors with BMI senior VP of writer/publisher relations Phil Graham joining them to present the top songwriter, publisher and song of the year awards.
BMI’s 2007 Songwriter of the Year Mark Hall, Skillet’s John Cooper and songwriter Brian Howes each received two BMI honors this year. Steven Curtis Chapman, tobyMac, Matt Maher, Needtobreathe’s Bo Rhinehart and Sanctus Real’s Dan Gartley were among those recognized during the evening.
Former Storyside: B members Lucio Rubino and Jordan Mohilowski received BMI awards for the song “Be Still.” It was a bittersweet moment as band member Ron McClelland, also a co-writer on the tune along with Aaron Rice, died in January of a heart attack while on a cruise. Storyside: B has disbanded. Rubino is now with Manic Drive and Mohilowski is now drummer for the Afters. “I’m happy that the song was able to reach people,” says Mohilowski. “People need encouragement and when they hear the words ‘be still and know I’m here,’ they are able to cling to that. We’ve heard a lot of stories from people about how that song has encouraged them.”
The BMI Christian Awards included a performance by Jim Daddario, Catt Gravitt and Jim Kimball delivering the Natalie Grant hit “In Better Hands.” Steve Fee frontman of the group Fee sang “All Because of Jesus.”
“All Because of Jesus” was recorded by Fee and also by Casting Crowns. “Mark Hall sent me a text message saying our church loves the song and we’d love to put it on a Crowns record,” Fee says of getting a message from Casting Crowns lead vocalist that they wanted to record the song. “To me that was God confirming the confession of worship that’s built into the DNA of the song that says the only place we can find life is through Jesus. So they recorded the song and we recorded the song. We put our version on the radio and people embraced it. It’s been a cool journey.”
For a complete list of winners, visit www.bmi.com.