By CHRIS TALBOTT
AP Music Writer
Kim Williams hesitated only slightly when asked who he thinks has been the best interpreter of his songs before the start of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
“That’s tough, but I’d say it would have to be Garth Brooks because I wrote them with him,” Williams said. “He was part of the songs, too, before he sang them. We had so much fun writing together.”
They had a load of fun together Sunday night, too.
Brooks and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, were on hand to help celebrate this year’s inductees — Williams, Tony Arata, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Larry Henley. Brooks saluted Williams and Arata, while Yearwood paid tribute to Carpenter and Henley, the writer of the enduring hit “The Wind Beneath My Wings.”
“Over 200 artists have recorded ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings,’ so it’s kind of how do you do a new twist?” Yearwood said before the ceremony. “And with Chapin, I’ve just known her a long, long time, so it was a no-brainer when she asked me. It’s the Garth and Trisha show and we’re just going to have a good time.”
Brooks sang “New Way To Fly,” “Papa Loved Mama” and “Three Wooden Crosses” to Williams during a moving and hilarious induction speech, then sang Arata’s “The Dance.” The appearance comes a year after Brooks’ own induction.
“I cried the whole time and I’m going to cry all night tonight, too, but now it’s for one of your brothers,” Brooks said. “I think I’m more excited for Kim and Tony going in. For me it’s long overdue. I was thinking about Kent Blazy, and I wonder where his face is. I think it’s only a matter of time for him, too. These are the guys I grew up with. They moved here at the same time and we’re all brothers.”
Marc Cohn also helped pay tribute to Carpenter, who noted she’s just the 14th female inductee among 188 hall of fame members.
“And that feels like an honor in and of itself,” Carpenter said beforehand. “I know that I stand on a lot of shoulders just to get to this place. I’m just so happy.”
The Nashville Songwriters Association International also gave out its yearly songwriting awards. Taylor Swift won the songwriter/artist of the year award for the fifth time in six years and remains at 22 that award’s youngest winner. Dallas Davidson was named songwriter of the year. And Dolly Parton’s enduring hit “I Will Always Love You,” which reached No. 1 again this year after Whitney Houston’s death, was named song of the year.