The 14th annual Songs of Hope gala, held for the second consecutive year in producer Alex Da Kid’s sprawling Sherman Oaks compound, raised a record-breaking total more than $400,000 for the City of Hope’s cancer research initiatives. The highlight was the presentation of “Songs of Hope Beverly and Ben Horowitz Legacy Award” to leading specialist Dr. Stephen J. Forman from longtime advocates Zach Horowitz and sister Jody Horowitz-Marsh, in honor of their late parents.
“This is a charity that recognizes the work of songwriters,” said Sony/ATV Music Publishing CEO/Chairman Marty Bandier, who would later present his “Vanguard” Award to Sony/ATV client Sarah Aarons, the diminutive Aussie who co-wrote one of the year’s biggest hits, “The Middle” by Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey.
“This is pretty different for me, it’s everything I’ve tried to avoid as a songwriter,” admitted the soft-spoken Aarons, whose inspiration was fellow Down Under songwriter Sia. “I still can’t believe I’m in America, let alone at an event like this. I keep asking myself, how am I here and how is this happening?”
Venerable Clive Davis, introduced by board co-chair, Universal Music Publising Group N.A. President Evan Lamberg as “the greatest music man of all time,” was particularly moved by the occasion, having recently attended the funeral of Aretha Franklin, herself a victim of pancreatic cancer.
“It’s heartwarming to see a larger turnout every year,” he said during a red-carpet conversation. “Learning more about what the City of Hope has been doing and the ferocity of their commitment never gets old. It’s very humbling to be a part of.”
Davis handed out his “Legend in Songwriting” Award to a pair of recipients in Mike WILL Made It (Michael Len Williams III) and Benny Blanco, both of whom brought their beaming moms to help them celebrate.
“It’s just dope to be in the same room with so many successful, talented, hard-working people,” said Mike WILL, who recently co-produced a pair of tracks for Eminem’s chart-topping “Kamikaze” album, including the controversial Justin Vernon collaboration, “Fall.” “The City of Hope means a great deal to me because I lost my grandmother to cancer. To be honored like this, it’s like she’s watching down over me.”
A dressed-down Benny Blanco was similarly moved by the honor presented to him by Davis. “He’s the big dog, numero uno,” he noted. “Every day, I wake up and think they must have me mixed up with some other guy, that they’re going to find out about me. At the end of the day, I’m just a nervous Jew, but I’m so honored to be here and get this award.”
Universal Music Publishing Group Global Chairman/CEO Jody Gerson presented the first-ever “She Is the Music” Award to SZA, dedicated to “inclusivity and equality,” with a nod to Alicia Keys, one of the founders of the new initiative.
“SZA embodies the spirit of the female luminaries who are breaking glass ceilings,” said Gerson in presenting the award.
“I’m pretty shy,” insisted SZA, “Jody makes me sound way cooler than I am. I’m just a small-town girl with black and female experiences, part of an energetic thread. Cancer has struck in all parts of my life, high and low.”
Without mentioning the subsequent announcement of Jon Platt – who will be the City of Hope’s ‘Spirit of Life” honoree at their October 11 dinner — leaving Warner/Chappell Music Publishing, recently named Chief Operating Officer Carianne Marshall and Senior Vice President Theatrical and Catalog Kurt Deutsch presented their “Songs of Hope” Award to legendary Broadway composer Steven Schwartz, the man behind “Pippen,” “Godspell” and “Wicked.” Deutsch gave a touching speech about growing up as a “Broadway geek” in St. Louis, recalling that his bar mitzvah speech quoted from “Corner of the Sky,” one of Schwartz’s songs in “Pippen.” He ended it with another verse from “Beautiful City,” referencing today’s political turmoil, a song from the film version of “Godspell.”
Fellow Co-Chairman, Electronic Arts President of Music Steve Schnur presented the “Composer of the Year” award to legendary film soundtrack maestro James Newton Howard, who quipped that he was “40 years older than the rest of the honorees.”
In addition to Lamberg (pictured below, at microphone) and Schnur, other event Co-Chairs included Spirit Music Group Chairman/CEO David Renzer (below, at left) and The Davis Firm Founder/Principal Doug Davis, Clive’s son (second from left)