Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

Cat Stevens and Missy Elliot join Songwriters Hall of Fame

The British singer and rapper were celebrated in a New York ceremony

Musician Yusuf Islam, commonly known by his stage name Cat Stevens performs during the Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductions in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., June 13, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Musician Yusuf Islam, commonly known by his stage name Cat Stevens performs during the Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductions in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., June 13, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Cat Stevens has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

The folk music icon and sometime Dubai resident - who converted to Islam and now goes by Yusuf/Cat Stevens – was honoured for his six decade career full of affecting hits such as Father and Son, Morning has Broken and Peace Train.

Speaking from the New York ceremony on June 13, he described how his life took several journeys, as did his song-writing.

"My first search was for wealth and success but then I was dragged underground after the first battle with fame and the demands of the music business. I was hospitalized with a thing called TB, but that was a great opening for me, a great chance, and that's when my real journey started," he said.

"And that journey was to do a search for meaning, so that kind of defined, I think, my main contribution to being a songwriter."

Rapper Missy Elliot honoured by Michelle Obama

Missy Elliott, the creative mastermind who has written hit songs for a number of female acts and created camaraderie among women in the music industry for more than two decades, also became the first female rapper inducted into hall of fame.

During a performance, breakthrough singer-rapper Lizzo brought Elliott's colourful and eccentric music videos to life in an ensemble similar to what Elliott sported in the late '90s — the finger wave hairdo included.

Former first lady Michelle Obama also took the stage to express her admiration for Missy Elliott.

"Missy, I want to thank you for all of your trailblazing ways," Obama said in a taped video that aired during the event.

"Thank you not for just sharing your gift with the world, but for being an advocate for so many people out there, especially young girls who are still figuring out how to make their voices heard."

It all brought Elliott to tears: near the end of her 10-minute speech, the Grammy winner broke down after telling funny and deep stories about how her creative mind worked as a child.

"Every time I come up to a podium ... even with all the work that I've done, I don't know, and I'm assuming it's just God, I don't know why I am here," she said with tears in her eyes as the audience erupted with cheers and applause.

"I want to say one thing to the writers, to the upcoming writers, 'Do not give up.' We all go through writer's block. Sometimes you just have to walk away from a record and come back to it. But don't give up because I'm standing here. And this is big for hip-hop, too."

Elliott is just the third rapper to enter into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, following Jay-Z and Jermaine Dupri's inductions in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

While she's written her own hit songs — from Get Ur Freak On and Work It to Lose Control – Elliott also lent her writing skills to other artists including the Beyoncé and the Whitney Houston and Aaliyah.

Elliott and Stevens entered the 2019 class alongside other music heavyweights country-folk icon John Prine.

"I love song-writing. I love to paint myself into a corner and have to write my way out of it," said Prine, who performed onstage with country singer Bonnie Raitt. "And when I co-write I always try to pick out a really good restaurant, so if things ain't happening in the first 30 minutes, just go: 'Hey man, let's go get some lunch.'"

Other inductees and a special award for Justin Timberlake

Songwriters are eligible for induction after writing hit songs for at least 20 years. Other inductees were Jack Tempchin, who co-wrote songs for the Eagles and Glenn Frey's solo albums; Dallas Austin, the songwriter behind radio hits for TLC, Monica, Pink, Boyz II Men and Madonna; and Tom T. Hall, who Johnny Cash called his "all-time favourite songwriter."

Hall didn't attend the 50th annual induction ceremony but taped an acceptance speech.

Justin Timberlake speaks on stage at the 50th annual Songwriters Hall of Fame induction and awards ceremony Thursday, June 13, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Brad Barket/Invision/AP)
Justin Timberlake speaks on stage at the 50th annual Songwriters Hall of Fame induction and awards ceremony Thursday, June 13, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Brad Barket/Invision/AP)

Sara Bareilles, who was honoured at last year's ceremony, stole the show Thursday when she sang her hit Brave. She was on piano while Jack Antonoff, the song's co-writer, assisted on guitar.

Justin Timberlake was also on hand to receive the Contemporary Icon Award and closed the multi-hour event with a performance, singing New York, New York before launching into his own hits, including My Love and Cry Me a River.

Updated: June 14, 2019 05:28 PM

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