The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (NaSHOF) welcomed six new members into its ranks last night as the Class of 2023 was officially honored at the organization’s 53rd Anniversary Gala. The musical contributions of the newest inductees were celebrated through star-studded performances of some of their biggest songs for the capacity crowd at Nashville’s Music City Center.
The Class of 2023: Casey Beathard and David Lee Murphy in the contemporary songwriter category; Rafe Van Hoy in the veteran songwriter category, Keith Urban in the contemporary songwriter/artist category and Kix Brooks in the veteran songwriter/artist category.
The late John Jarrard was inducted into the Hall’s Legacy category, designed specifically to honor NaSHOF-worthy candidates who are deceased. Additionally, Bobby Bare was presented with the Frances Williams Preston Mentor Award in appreciation of his 60-year career as a champion of and cheerleader for songwriters, many of whom would go on to become HOF members.
“We are here tonight to honor the songwriters who have reached the pinnacle of success in their respective careers,” said Rich Hallworth, NaSHOF Board Chair. “We celebrate the creativity and talent that go into writing a song of merit, cultural value and long-lasting impact, and we do that tonight by welcoming these newest members into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.”
The event traditionally features some of music’s most talented artists performing songs from the inductees’ impressive catalogs, and this year’s line-up was no exception.
Following welcoming remarks by NaSHOF Executive Director Mark Ford and Board Chair Rich Hallworth, the evening’s festivities began by honoring the late John Jarrard, who was presented by Hall of Fame member Gary Nicholson. Blackhawk performed their Jarrard-penned hit “I Sure Can Smell the Rain.” Jarrard’s widow, Janet Jarrard, accepted on her late husband’s behalf.
Next up, Bobby Bare was honored with the Frances Williams Preston Mentor Award, making him the first recording artist to receive the honor. Hall of Fame member Gretchen Peters presented the award to Bobby Bare Jr., representing his father for the event.
Following Bare, inductee Casey Beathard was presented to the audience by Hall of Fame member Buddy Cannon, and superstar Eric Church, along with Joanna Cotten, performed “Like Jesus Does,” a platinum-selling song for the artist.
John Conlee then took the stage to honor inductee Rafe Van Hoy. Conlee performed his classic “Lady Lay Down,” one of several chart toppers penned for him by Van Hoy, who was presented by Hall of Fame member Bobby Braddock.
Hall of Fame member Bob DiPiero presented inductee Kix Brooks, and award-winning recording artist Cody Johnson performed the Brooks & Dunn smash, “Only In America,” written by Brooks.
Superstar Kenny Chesney performed “Living In Fast Forward,” one of several #1 hits written for him by inductee David Lee Murphy, who was presented by Hall of Fame member Craig Wiseman.
Closing the evening’s festivities, Eric Church took the stage once more, this time to salute inductee Keith Urban, with Urban’s self-written #1 “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me.” Music icon Dolly Parton, herself a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, presented Urban.
The night also featured a touching segment that honored recently deceased Hall of Fame member Jimmy Buffett, who passed away September 1. Americana artist Will Kimbrough performed “Bubbles Up,” a song he co-wrote with Buffett that was recently released as a single.
The evening featured a special treat for those in the audience when HOF member Larry Gatlin, the Gatlin Brothers and nine HOF members performed Gatlin’s song “Amazin’ (What Just The Right 3 Minutes Can Do).” Those joining Gatlin onstage included: Aaron Barker, Kent Blazy, Buddy Cannon, Marcus Hummon, Brett James, Bob Morrison, Gretchen Peters, Rivers Rutherford, and Sharon Vaughn.
Additionally NaSHOF Board member Ken Paulson took a few moments to update the audience on the “The Songwriters,” a program he hosts that premiered in 2016 on WNPT and spotlights Hall of Fame members on public television stations across the country.
The gala, which kicked off with a welcoming performance from the band, The Wildcards, featured its long-time “voice” — iconic announcer Bill Cody, the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Famer and host of 650 AM WSM’s “Coffee, Country & Cody.”