Loretta, Shania, Toby Honored at BMI Awards

Twain "Forever and For Always" Named Organization's Country Song of the Year

With musical tributes from her sister, Crystal Gayle, and Martina McBride, Loretta Lynn became a BMI Icon during the performing rights society’s 2004 country awards banquet. At Monday night’s (Nov. 8) event at BMI’s office on Nashville’s Music Row, Lynn was recognized for “her enduring influence on generations of music makers.”

As a songwriter, Shania Twain won the Robert J. Burton award for the most performed country song of the year honor for her hit, “Forever and For Always.” Toby Keith picked up the organization’s country songwriter/artist of the year for a recent string of No. 1 hits, including “American Soldier,” “Beer for My Horses” and “I Love This Bar.” Keith, BMI’s country songwriter/artist of the year in 2001, now has a total of 15 BMI awards.

Casey Beathard was named BMI’s country songwriter of the year after landing five titles on the most-performed list. In addition to Kenny Chesney’s “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems,” Beathard was honored for his involvement in writing Tracy Byrd’s “Drinkin’ Bone,” Trace Adkins’ “Hot Mama,” Jeff Bates “The Love Song” and Billy Currington’s “Walk a Little Straighter.”

Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville scored 18 songs on the most-performed list to claim country publisher of the year honors.

Before Lynn was presented the BMI Icon award, Country Music Hall of Fame member Kitty Wells walked onstage to show her support. Additional comments were provided during a brief video presentation featuring Melissa Etheridge, Dolly Parton, k.d. lang, Brenda Lee and the late Owen Bradley and Waylon Jennings. Lynn previously recorded duets with Conway Twitty and Ernest Tubb, but the video also featured comments from her latest duet partner, Jack White of the rock band, the White Stripes.

With a band led by guitarist Randy Scruggs, Gayle sang her sister’s signature song, “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” McBride turned in a spirited version of Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough.”

Lynn, dressed in a white sequined gown, was clearly appreciative of the award but had little to say in accepting it.

“Since I’ve been in Nashville, Tenn., everybody has been so great to me,” she told the crowd. “Well, what else can I say? I love all of you.”

The evening also saw the symbolic passing of BMI’s leadership torch as new president Del Bryant recognized BMI president and CEO emeritus Frances Preston with the organization’s President’s Award. Preston joined BMI in 1958 and created the organization’s country awards in 1959. She retired in August.

Alabama’s Randy Owen joined Vince Gill and Kris Kristofferson in honoring Preston.

“Frances,” Owen said, “I remember the time you called … and said, ‘Randy, do you need some money?’ And I said, ‘Sure!’ I said, ‘I’ll bet on my career to buy my wife a new home.’ And you said, ‘I can advance you enough money to get a new home.’ … Luckily for me, a lot more money came along than it took to build a new home. I’ll never forget you. Whatever path you take, please take me with you.”

“I’m glad you said that,” Gill said, “because the same thing happened to me in 1979. I had written some songs, and somebody told me I could get some money for them. I didn’t get enough for a whole house. I got enough for cable TV.”

Reflecting on his 25 years as a BMI member, Gill said, “Out of all the things I’ve accomplished, writing songs and being recognized for them has meant more than anything. It’s been said that Conway Twitty was the best friend a song ever had. We would all be remiss if we didn’t admit that Frances Preston is the best friend a songwriter ever had.”

Kristofferson agreed with Gill’s assessment and helped explain Preston’s importance to songwriters.

“She was a human being, and she wasn’t a cold-blooded executive,” he said. “She listened to us. She loaned money to us, and she respected us. And that’s something you might not understand today. Back when I came here to town, the songwriters were at the bottom of the food chain. We were jokingly referred to as bugs … pests and barred from most recording sessions. It even cost more to get a phone put in your house if the telephone company knew you were a songwriter.” Kristofferson added, “But the perception has changed because Frances fought for us. … You were the right person at the right time.”

Among the other songwriters winning BMI awards this year are Keith Urban, Sara Evans, Lonestar’s Richie McDonald, Clint Black, Kix Brooks, Ronnie Dunn, Pat Green, Scotty Emerick, Jeffrey Steele, Buddy Jewell, Craig Morgan, Pat Green, Jeff Bates and Sherrié Austin.

Others attending the banquet included Rascal Flatts, the Warren Brothers, Julie Roberts, Catherine Britt, Mel Tillis, Earl Scruggs, Lee Roy Parnell, Troy Gentry, Trick Pony, Bill Anderson and Lee Greenwood.

BMI Country Awards 2004

Song of the Year: “Forever and For Always”
Shania Twain

Songwriter of the Year: Casey Beathard

Songwriter/Artist of the Year: Toby Keith

Publisher of the Year: Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville

The 50 Most Performed Songs:

“Almost Home”
Writer: Craig Morgan

“American Soldier”
Writers: Chuck Cannon, Toby Keith

“Beer for My Horses”
Writers: Scotty Emerick, Toby Keith

“Big Star”
Writer: Stephony Smith

“Chicks Dig It”
Writer: Charlie Crowe

“Concrete Angel”
Writers: Stephanie Bentley, Rob Crosby

“Cool to Be a Fool”
Writers: Steve Dean, Wil Nance

“Cowboys Like Us”
Writer: Bob DiPiero

“Drinkin’ Bone”
Writer: Casey Beathard

“A Few Questions”
Writers: Phillip Moore, Ray Scott

“Forever and For Always”
Writer: Shania Twain

“Have You Forgotten?”
Writer: Wynn Varble

“Hell Yeah”
Writer: Jeffrey Steele

“Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey’s Song)”
Writer: Buddy Jewell

“Honesty (Write Me a List)”
Writers: Patience Clements, David Kent

“Hot Mama”
Writer: Casey Beathard, Tom Shapiro

“I Believe”
Writers: Skip Ewing, Donny Kees

“I Love This Bar”
Writers: Scotty Emerick, Toby Keith

“I Melt”
Writer: Wendell Mobley

“I Wanna Do It All”
Writers: Rick Giles, Gilles Godard (SOCAN), Tim Nichols

“In My Daughter’s Eyes”
Writer: James Slater

“It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”
Writer: Don Rollins

“The Love Songs”
Writers: Jeff Bates, Casey Beathard

“My Front Porch Looking In”
Writers: Richie McDonald, Frank Myers

“No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems”
Writer: Casey Beathard

“Perfect”
Writers: Sara Evans, Tony Martin, Tom Shapiro

“Real Good Man”
Writer: George Teren

“Red Dirt Road”
Writers: Kix Brooks, Ronnie Dunn

“She Only Smokes When She Drinks”
Writers: Tony Martin, Tim Nichols

“She’s My Kind of Rain”
Writers: Tommy Lee James, Robin Lerner

“She’s Not Just a Pretty Face”
Writer: Shania Twain

“Speed”
Writer: Jeffrey Steele

“Spend My Time”
Writers: Clint Black, Hayden Nicholas

“Stay Gone”
Writer: Billy Kirsch

“Streets of Heaven”
Writer: Sherrié Austin

“Sweet Southern Comfort”
Writer: Rodney Clawson

“Tell Me Something Bad About Tulsa”
Writer: Red Lane

“Then They Do”
Writers: Jim Collins, Sunny Russ

“There Goes My Life”
Writer: Wendell Mobley

“This One’s For the Girls”
Writer: Aimee Mayo

“Three Wooden Crosses”
Writer: Doug Johnson

“Tough Little Boys”
Writer: Harley Allen

“The Truth About Men”
Writers: Tim Johnson, Paul Overstreet

“Walk a Little Straighter”
Writers: Casey Beathard, Carson Chamberlain

“Watch the Wind Blow By”
Writers: Dylan Altman, Anders Osborne

“Wave on Wave”
Writer: Pat Green

“What Was I Thinkin’”
Writer: Brett Beavers

“Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me”
Writer: Keith Urban

“Wrinkles”
Writer: Ronny Scaife

“You Can’t Take the Honky Tonky Out of the Girl”
Writers: Bart Allmand, Bob DiPiero

Calvin Gilbert has served as CMT.com’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.