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It was another of those magical "only in Nashville" nights as Vince Gill, producer T Bone Burnett and others were saluted in song at the fifth annual T.J. Martell Honors Gala, Sunday night (March 10), at the Hutton Hotel in Nashville. The evening brought together such luminaries as Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges, John Mellencamp, rock titan Elvis Costello, stars of the Nashville TV series Charles Esten and Clare Bowen and top songwriters Tim Nichols, Rivers Rutherford and Aaron Barker.
All paid tribute to Vince, T Bone and their fellow honorees, who were being recognized for their charitable works and contributions to the Nashville community. The event, which included live and silent auctions, helped benefit the T.J. Martell Foundation, a leading center for cancer, leukemia and AIDS research.
Charles Esten, who served as host for the evening, introduced Vince by referring to his recent appearance on Nashville. "As an actor," Charles joked, "he's a great singer and musician." Vince received the Frances Williams Preston Lifetime Music Industry Award, presented to him by his wife, Amy Grant. Vince's daughter Jenny honored her dad with a moving performance of Vince's hit "Whenever You Come Around." An emotional Vince noted that the award was a "bittersweet" one, as he recalled the late former head of BMI, Frances Preston, for whom the award is named. "I was crazy about Frances," said Vince, explaining that she was an early champion of his songwriting. "I graciously accept this award with a tender heart."
The stars rolled out to pay tribute to T Bone, the eclectic producer and music archivist who produced the groundbreaking soundtrack album O Brother, Where Art Thou? and has collaborated with such artists as John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello and Alison Krauss. Actor Jeff Bridges, who worked with T Bone on the film Crazy Heart, for which Jeff won an Oscar, introduced his friend to the stage. In honoring T Bone, John Mellencamp performed his classic "Pink Houses," which had the audience singing and clapping along, while Elvis Costello closed the evening with "Sulphur to Sugarcane," which he wrote with T Bone, and other selections.