Rhett Akins, Buddy Cannon and John Scott Sherrill rounded out this year's class, which was announced on July 13 and enshrined on Monday (Nov. 1) at the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala (Nov. 1) at the Music City Center. Because last year's 50th anniversary celebration got postponed by the pandemic, the event also honored Class of 2020 honorees Steve Earle, Bobbie Gentry, Kent Blazy, Brett James and Spooner Oldham.
"This year we're belatedly celebrating our Golden Anniversary - more than 50 years of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame," said Sarah Cates, Board Chair of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Foundation (as quoted in a press release). "Though we were unable to gather last year, we're making up for lost time by honoring two stellar classes. It's gratifying to have these legendary songwriters join us at last!"
Keith's contributions to songwriting date back to his 1993 debut single, "Should've Been a Cowboy." His way with words netted BMI's 2001 Songwriter of the Year, 2004 Writer/Artist of the Year and 2006 Songwriter of the Year awards. In addition, BMI awarded "As Good As I Once Was" as its 2006 Country Song of the Year.
Grant's been shaping the course of modern gospel music ever since she was a Nashville-based teenage recording artist in the '70s. In 1991, she became the crossover sensation behind the album Heart in Motion and its definitive hit, "Baby Baby." She's since fortified her reputation as a wordsmith with Michael W. Smith co-write "Place in This World" and contemporary holiday standard "[Tender] Tennessee Christmas."
Akins, the father of country music superstar Thomas Rhett, first made an impact in the '90s as the recording artist behind "That Ain't My Truck" and "Don't Get Me Started." He's since become a songwriter for the stars, penning or co-penning Brooks & Dunn's "Put a Girl in It," Blake Shelton's "Honey Bee" and some of his son's biggest hits ("What's Your Country Song," "It Goes Like This"). Akins won the 2017 ACM Songwriter of the Year and 2019 Songwriter of the Decade trophies.
Tennessee native Cannon's been a go-to collaborator for the likes of Mel Tillis, Vern Gosdin, Kenny Chesney and Willie Nelson. His best-known composition as a country traditionalist, George Strait hit "Give It Away," won the 2007 ACM Song and Single of the Year prizes as well as the 2007 CMA Song of the Year award. Cannon co-wrote "Give It Away" with Bill Anderson and Jamey Johnson.
Sherrill, a member in the '80s of country band Billy Hill with fellow songwriters and guitarists Dennis Robbins and Bob DiPiero, had a hand in writing multiple No. 1 hits, starting with John Anderson's 1982 single "Wild and Blue." He's also credited on Shenandoah's "The Church on Cumberland Road," Brooks & Dunn's "How Long Gone" and Josh Turner's "Would You Go With Me."
As for Class of 2020 inductee Gentry, she chose not to return to the public eye for the first time in almost 40 years. Fellow Hall of Famer Gretchen Peters spoke on her behalf, with Trisha Yearwood kicking off festivities with a performance of Gentry's worldwide hit "Ode to Billie Joe."
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