In November, Billy Joel will receive the prestigious Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. James H Billington, the current head librarian at the Library of Congress, said that Joel is the sixth person to receive this award. The award is given for lifetime achievement. It honors a songwriter whose work meets the same high standards comparable to those of George and Ira Gershwin.
The Gershwin Prize involves stringent guidelines. The award is only presented to a musician/songwriter who has spent a lifetime promoting music expressively and culturally through various musical forms like rock, jazz, country, blues, gospel, pop or blues. The Library of Congress has a special board of trustees that select the candidate. Members of the board include performers, producers, critics, scholars, songwriters and specialists. All members must have a musical background to qualify.
Previous honorees include Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Hal David, Bert Bacharach and Carole King, in that order. Paul Simon received 12 Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and Kennedy Center Honors in 2003. Simon also co-founded the Children’s Health Fund.
Stevie Wonder received 25 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award and a Grammy Lifetime. He was honored to join the ranks of The Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He also won a Kennedy Center Award and a Mercer Award.
Paul McCartney won numerous awards in Great Britain, received an honorary doctorate from Yale, has been appointed a Fellow of the Royal College of music and knighted by the Queen of England.
Hal David, of Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head fame, has won numerous Academy Awards, an Oscar and a few Grammy Awards as well. What the World Needs Now is Love, a song written in 1965, was honored as the 2004 Towering song by The Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Burt Bacharach has been writing songs for 60 years, has had 48 top 10’s and has written over 500 songs. He has received Grammy Awards, Lifetime Achievement Awards and Academy Awards. He has also been proclaimed music’s Greatest Living Composer.
Carole King is a pop music icon. At the age of 17, she wrote her first number one hit Will You Love Me Tomorrow. In 1987, she was asked to join The Songwriters Hall of Fame. Her awards include a Mercer Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Songwriters and a Trustee Award from the Recording Academy. She has written over 400 songs and is now a member of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.
This year, Billy Joel will receive the Gershwin Prize for his lifetime achievement in the world of music. Joel has won several Grammys for Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Album of the Year. Joel is also in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and is a Kennedy Center honoree.
When asked about Joel’s musical acumen, James H. Billington commented that he considered him a natural storyteller. He said that his music was extremely descriptive. Listening to a Billy Joel song made him feel as though he were living within the place that Joel’s music painted. His songs are that intimate, he said.
Recently Joel won another award, a hometown award, “That’s So Long Island.” The award was sponsored by Newsday. He won by 900 votes. Joel’s fans describe him as being more Long Island than either Jones Beach, Long Island or Long Island bagels.
By Dennis De Rose