New York, N.Y. – April 8, 2009 – Hal David, Chairman/CEO of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, announced today that the 2009 Towering Song Award will be bestowed upon the iconic “Moon River” at the Songwriters Hall of Fame 40th anniversary gala on Thursday, June 18th at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel. The extraordinary crooner and national treasure, Andy Williams, will be presented with the Towering Performance Award, only the second time SHOF has presented this award in its history. Cocktails for the event begin at 6pm, dinner is at 7 pm and the show begins at 8:30 pm. The event is once again produced by Phil Ramone.
“Moon River” was written in 1961 by SHOF co-founder and great American songwriter, Johnny Mercer (lyrics), and the versatile and celebrated Henry Mancini (music). It garnered the Oscar that year for “Best Original Song,” and was first featured in the blockbuster film, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, where it was performed by Audrey Hepburn, then as the theme song for Andy Williams, who recorded “Moon River” in 1961 and sang it at the Academy Awards ceremony in 1962. Williams also performed the first eight bars to begin his popular weekly television show The Andy Williams Show each week. The song became so linked to both Mercer and Williams that an inlet near Savannah, Georgia where Johnny Mercer grew up was named Moon River in honor of Mercer and the song, and Andy Williams named his production company and venue in Branson, Missouri after the song. Others who have covered the song include SHOF inductees Paul Anka, Bobby Darin and SHOF Chairman Emeritus Frank Sinatra. “Moon River” is published by Sony ATV Harmony.
The Towering Song Award is presented each year to the creators of an individual song that has influenced our culture in a unique way over many years. Previous Towering Songs have included “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” “Unchained Melody,” “When The Saints Go Marching In,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “What The World Needs Now Is Love” and “Fly Me to the Moon.”
2009 Towering Performance recipient Andy Williams burst onto the national stage on Steve Allen’s Tonight! show in 1953, and label deals and top 10 hits followed. 1962 became a pivotal year when his label change to Columbia Records produced the Top 10 pop hit “Can’t Get Used to Losing You,” along with a collaboration with Henry Mancini, which inspired Andy’s signature song, “Moon River.” Other major chartbusters for Williams came with the movie theme songs “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962), “Dear Heart” (1964) and “Love Story” (1970). The incredible success of his weekly variety show The Andy Williams Show (1962-1971) made him a household name. During that time, he dueted with such singing legends as Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland and Peggy Lee, and kept audiences enthralled week after week. The series won three Emmy Awards for “Best Musical/Variety Series.” Andy’s Christmas specials aired well into the 1990’s, and were among the most popular of the genre. He has recorded eight Christmas albums over the years and has been penned as “Mr. Christmas.” Andy opened Caesar’s Palace in 1966 and went on to headline there for 20 years. In 1992, he built a state-of-the-art theater in Branson, MS, which was christened the Andy Williams Moon River Theater. His phenomenally successful career is into its 74th year and still going strong.
The Towering Performance Award is given in recognition of one-of-a-kind performances by one-of-a-kind singers. Often called “songwriter’s singers,” they have recorded outstanding and unforgettable interpretations of many pop songs that have subsequently become standards. The previous Towering Performance Awardee was Tony Bennett for “I Left My Heart In San Francisco.”
Inductees at this year’s event include Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora; Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati (The Young Rascals); Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway; Crosby, Stills & Nash; Galt MacDermot, James Rado and Gerome Ragni (deceased); and Stephen Schwartz.
About The Songwriters Hall of Fame:
The Songwriters Hall of Fame celebrates songwriters, educates the public with regard to their achievements, and produces a spectrum of professional programs devoted to the development of new songwriting talent through workshops, showcases and scholarships. Over the course of the past 40 years, some key Songwriters Hall of Fame inductees have included Desmond Child, Dolly Parton, John Fogerty, Isaac Hayes and David Porter, Steve Cropper, Richard and Robert Sherman, Bill Withers, Carole King, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Sir Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Brian Wilson, James Taylor, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Hal David and Burt Bacharach, Jim Croce, Phil Collins, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Jimmy Webb, Van Morrison and Cy Coleman among many, many others. The Songwriters Hall of Fame was founded in 1969 by songwriter Johnny Mercer and publishers Abe Olman and Howie Richmond.
Full biographies and a complete list of inductees are available at the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s Virtual Museum at songhall.org.
Tickets for the Songwriters Hall of Fame 40th Anniversary Gala begin at $1000 each, and are available through Buckley Hall Events, (212) 573-6933. Net proceeds from the event support the Songwriters Hall of Fame programs.