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Garth Brooks made a rare appearance in Nashville Sunday night (Oct. 7) when he helped pay tribute to the new inductees to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. The event, held at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel, honored songwriters Larry Henley, Kim Williams and Tony Arata and songwriter/artist Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Garth's wife, Trisha Yearwood, was also on hand and honored Larry Henley by performing his most famous song, “Wind Beneath My Wings,” which Trisha noted had been covered by around 200 artists. She drew laughs as she introduced Garth, who backed her on acoustic guitar, by saying, “Luckily, I live with a songwriter who plays guitar.” Garth then took the stage to honor Kim Williams, Garth’s co-writer on hits such as “Papa Loved Mama” and “Ain’t Going Down (Til the Sun Comes Up).”
Garth told the audience that it was like welcoming a brother to the hallowed Hall. Garth himself was inducted last year. “I met him in 1988,” Garth said. “Our careers started about the same time. He is definitely what a songwriter really is.”
He also related the story of how he and Kim wrote “Papa Loved Mama” in the space of about 20 minutes. Garth performed that song along with another of Kim’s best-known tunes, “Three Wooden Crosses,” a No. 1 hit for Randy Travis. Later in the evening, Garth returned to honor songwriter Tony Arata, who wrote Garth’s anthem “The Dance.”
Mary Chapin Carpenter humbly accepted her honor by acknowledging fellow writer Don Schlitz for his early support. “I’m a humble graduate of the Don Schlitz school of songwriting,” she said, noting that Don insisted on working with perfect rhymes. “I’m so deeply honored to take my place in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.” Marc Cohn performed Mary Chapin’s hit “The Hard Way,” while Trisha paid tribute with a performance of “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her.” Trisha said, “I was really honored to be asked to sing this.”
Also during the evening, the Nashville Songwriters Association International presented its annual Songwriter Achievement Awards. The Songwriter/Artist of the Year honor went to Taylor Swift for the fifth time in six years. Dolly Parton received the award for Song of the Year for her timeless “I Will Always Love You,” which became a mainstay at radio again this year after the death of pop singer Whitney Houston, who took the song to No. 1 on the pop charts. Taylor and Dolly were unable to attend, but expressed their gratitude in video statements.