LOS ANGELES — Trisha Yearwood became only the second country artist inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame on Friday (June 24) in Los Angeles during a ceremony that certainly played up its Tinseltown roots.
Yearwood, who had her own recurring role in the Jag TV series, performed three songs with distinct movie ties: her hit “How Do I Live,” which appeared in the 1997 picture Con Air; “They All Laughed,” originally associated with Ginger Rogers in 1937’s Shall We Dance; and “Over the Rainbow,” the Wizard of Oz classic Yearwood has sung in all sorts of venues, from the Library of Congress to a now-closed gay club in Nashville.
Those songs were particularly appropriate given the Bowl’s proximity to much of the film industry’s history. Gower Street, which housed some of the early movie studios that brought Roy Rogers and Gene Autry to the silver screen, is barely two miles from the amphitheater. And it’s a short jaunt from the Bowl to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Kodak Theatre, which hosts the Oscars.
In fact, another singer, who made a fair share of movies in his day, was posthumously added to the Hall of Fame as well, and Yearwood certainly felt his presence.
“I’m sure right now Frank Sinatra’s asking, ’Who is this broad?'” Yearwood joked.
If he listened to her introduction, from songwriter and movie star Kris Kristofferson, Sinatra would definitely have recognized her importance. Kristofferson called her “one of the finest interpreters of songs on the planet,” a phrase that applied to Sinatra, too. Kristofferson also hailed Yearwood for her “unique ability to discover and deliver the emotional truth of a song.”
She demonstrated that ability in her short set. In her now-familiar “How Do I Live,” she conveyed the chorus’ high note with a tender vulnerability. By contrast, she leaned away from the microphone during George Gershwin’s “They All Laughed” before belting out one final, blast of a note.
“Don’t you remember that one from country radio?” she asked.
Yearwood has, of course, been a regular on country radio since she arrived with her 1991 debut, “She’s in Love With the Boy.” She put together a total of 19 Top 10 hits in the ensuing years, running through 2001’s “I Would’ve Loved You Anyway.” But any single format would prove too restrictive for her talents, and the Hollywood Bowl event, in which she performed with an orchestra that listed 76 musicians, allowed her to stretch beyond her usual idiomatic boundaries.
“I already feel like I was born a generation late,” she said in her dressing room. “I love the big band thing.”
Playing with big symphonies — at the Bowl and at other venues — has provided her the opportunity to hear her music in a different atmosphere, and the resonance of so many instruments has a powerful effect.
“When you add an orchestra or strings to an album, I’m always there for the session,” she explained. “I love to hear them play, but I’ve already done my vocals. They’re playing to what’s already been done. When you sing live, then you get to feel that energy. I mean, to actually sing ’How Do I Live’ live and to hear them come in behind you, that’s awesome. It just lifts everything to another level, and you become a better singer instantly.”
The Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame comes with a built-in level of prestige. The venue, which seats 18,000, has hosted concerts ranging from orchestral dates to rap shows. The Beatles’ performances at the Hollywood Bowl were so significant that Paul McCartney referenced the theater in his 1975 single, “Venus and Mars Rock Show.” And Cher chose the Bowl for her farewell performance in April.
Country has also made its presence known at the Bowl on occasion, beginning with a 1955 bill that offered Hank Snow, Lefty Frizzell and Freddie Hart. Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and George Jones all performed at the Bowl on one night in 1962, and subsequent country dates have featured such artists as Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis and Yearwood’s fiance, Garth Brooks.
Brooks, who was the first country artist to join the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, was on hand Friday, but he did not take the stage, which kept the focus on Yearwood, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the two other new members: Sinatra and violin virtuoso Joshua Bell.
Brooks “is the fiancé tonight,” Yearwood said. “He does that very well.”
There was plenty more star power on hand. Josh Groban performed with Bell, uber-producer Quincy Jones helped induct Sinatra and the three Sinatra kids — Frank Jr., Nancy and Tina — all performed or gave speeches.
The ceremony was also aided by several actors: Best in Show comic Fred Willard; Malcolm in the Middle actress Jane Kaczmarek; her husband, The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford; and Brad Paisley buddy William Shatner, of Star Trek.
And, of course, there was Kristofferson.
“For all the women who have seen A Star Is Born,” Yearwood cooed to him, “we love you.”
At this point, Yearwood has plenty of her own fans. Many of them enshrined her in Hollywood.