It was an evening of several firsts while raising money for an important cause at the 14th annual Songs of Hope. The charity event — whose honorees included songwriter/producers Benny Blanco and Mike WILL Made-It, songwriters SZA and Sarah Aarons and composers Stephen Schwartz and James Newton Howard — raised more than $400,000 last evening (Sept. 13) on behalf of cancer research, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.
For the second consecutive year, hitmaker Alex da Kid‘s KIDinaKORNER Kampus in Sherman Oaks, Calif. provided the backdrop. Songs of Hope XIV presented by Spotify was co-chaired by Universal Music Publishing Group president Evan Lamberg, Spirit Music Group chairman/CEO David Renzer, The Davis Firm founder/principal Doug Davis and Electronic Arts president of music Steve Schnur. Lamberg opened the evening by reading sobering statistics about cancer from a World Health Organization report released earlier that day. Among the report’s chief findings: nearly 10 million people will die of cancer this year while another 18 million new cancer cases will develop.
“This is why we’re here tonight,” said Lamberg. “We want these numbers to come down and then we don’t want to see cancer anymore.”
The venerable Clive Davis presented the evening’s first honor, his namesake Legend in Songwriting Award. For the first time, the award was bestowed on two honorees: Benny Blanco (Ed Sheeran, The Weeknd) and Mike WILL Made-It (Kendrick Lamar, Rae Sremmurd).
Sharing how cancer has affected his life — a sentiment echoed throughout the evening by the other honorees — Mike WILL Made-It noted, “I’m humbled and blessed to be honored by such a roomful of talented, respected and hardworking songwriters. I lost to cancer my grandmother and uncle who taught me how to do music. Sometimes after 17 hours in the studio working on one song, you question if this is ever going to pay off. When you get acknowledged on important nights like this, it does.” Mike Will then announced that he would be making a donation “to this great cause.”
Added Blanco of the award, “To see Clive Davis’ name on here and mine at the same time, this is insane. We’re all here for this cause, which has affected some of my loved ones and friends. This is such a good thing you’re doing here.”
Universal Music Publishing Group chairman/CEO Jody Gerson next presented the She Is the Music Award to SZA, the singer/songwriter behind the platinum debut album Ctrl. “I’m presenting the first-ever award in Songs of Hope history to be given exclusively by women to women,” said Gerson to applause. Named for the She Is the Music movement to increase equality and inclusivity in the music business, the award is dedicated to female luminaries who are breaking glass ceilings and shaping the future of music.
Gerson also read a message from Alicia Keys, one of the founders of She Is the Music: “This is for all the girls in the world that have something to say in a way that is all their own. We are proud of you, SZA, for making your mark; on your uniqueness through your perspective of raw and honest songwriting so that other women can be encouraged and free to express themselves honestly.”
Upon accepting her award, SZA said, “Honestly, Jody makes me sound way cooler. I’m just a girl from a small town that had female experiences and black experiences that were just regular human experiences … but maybe everybody didn’t know they were a part of that diaspora of feeling. This is all part of an energetic thread and I’m honored to a part of this.”
Four more award presentations rounded out the ceremony. Sony/ATV Music Publishing chairman/CEO Martin Bandier presented his namesake Vanguard Award to songwriter Sarah Aarons. She co-wrote the double-platinum hits “Stay” (Zedd and Alessia Cara) and “The Middle” (Zedd and Maren Morris). Warner/Chappell Music’s COO Carianne Marshall and senior vp, theatrical & catalog development Kurt Deutsch presented the publishing firm’s first-ever Icon of Hope Award to lyricist/composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin). Fellow composer James Newton Howard (The Hunger Games film series, Pretty Woman) received Electronic Arts’ Composer of the Year Award from Schnur.
Industry veteran Zach Horowitz, former UMPG chairman/CEO, presented the evening’s final award. Named after his parents, the Songs of Hope Beverly and Ben Horowitz Legacy Award went to Stephen J. Forman, M.D. Forman is the Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in hematology and hematopoietic cell transplantation at City of Hope.
Contributing to the more than $400,000 raised last evening was an onsite silent auction and CharityBuzz online auction that between the two featured items such as two tickets plus meet & greet with Cher in Las Vegas and autographed guitars from Blake Shelton, Slash and David Byrne. Prior to last night, Songs of Hope had raised more than $3.5 million for City of Hope.