Songwriter Jeffrey Steele, the song “Landslide” and Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville took top honors at the annual BMI Country Awards in Nashville, held Tuesday (Nov. 4). But it was the irrepressible Dolly Parton who brought down the house after she was presented with the prestigious BMI Icon Award.
BMI president/CEO Frances W. Preston prefaced the award presentation by praising Parton as the most famous person from Locust Ridge, Tenn. “She’s got the words of a poet, the voice of an angel and the body of a goddess,” said Preston. “She’s a true renaissance woman.”
Lee Ann Womack sang Parton’s composition “Jolene” in her honor, giving way to Kris Kristofferson and former Parton singing partner Porter Wagoner, who both praised Parton’s talent and generosity. Vince Gill followed with more acclaim, before performing an acoustic version of Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.”
In accepting the Icon Award, which is an engraved silver loving cup, Parton exclaimed, “Oh, a silver bucket! What an honor to get a silver bucket and to hear all these wonderful things. You have a dream as a little kid and wake up every day and do your thing and hope it comes true.”
Steele was honored by the performing rights organization as songwriter of the year for writing four of BMI’s 50 most-performed country songs of the year. His songs were “Chrome” (recorded by Trace Adkins), “The Cowboy in Me” (Tim McGraw), “My Town” (Montgomery Gentry) and “These Days” (Rascal Flatts). Steele now has 14 BMI awards. He was a member of the group Boy Howdy before becoming one of Nashville’s top writers.
“Landslide,” written by Stevie Nicks, was a hit for her group Fleetwood Mac more than two and a half decades ago. It’s a good example, noted Preston, of the longevity of a good song. The Dixie Chicks recorded “Landslide” and released it as a single off their album Home, gaining considerable radio success across several radio genres.
Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville was honored by BMI as country publisher of the year for the highest number of songs (12) on the most-performed list. The writers of the 50 most-performed songs were all honored individually at the ceremony.
In addressing the music business in general, Preston noted that although pessimism still reigns, BMI has some good news. “It’s been a difficult year for the music business,” she said, “with mergers and reductions and piracy and downloading. However, this is the best year in BMI’s 64-year history.”
The awards dinner and ceremony were held overlooking downtown Nashville in an open-air combination parking garage-party deck of BMI’s headquarters. Country Music Hall of Fame members attending were Bill Anderson, Brenda Lee, Jo Walker-Meador, Parton, Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires, Wagoner and Bud Wendell. Other artists included Toby Keith, Keith Urban, Jennifer Hanson, Terri Clark, Troy Gentry, Eddie Montgomery, Randy Owen of Alabama, Rascal Flatts, Steve Azar, Anthony Smith, Buddy Jewell, Diamond Rio, Andy Griggs, Joe Nichols, Scotty Emerick, Jeff Bates, Sara Evans, Richie McDonald and Michael Britt of Lonestar, John McEuen and Jimmie Fadden of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Dean Miller. After the event, guests enjoyed a lavish dessert and cordials buffett while being serenaded by members of Nashville’s celebrated A-Team of stellar studio musicians, anchored by guitarist Harold Bradley and steel guitarist Lloyd Green. Big-voiced singer Mandy Barnett joined them on several country classics.