UMPG Publisher of the Year; Berry, Diddley, Richard Honored
For the 50th time last night, performing rights organization BMI recognized the 50 most-performed songs of the past year at its annual Pop Awards at a black-tie affair at L.A.’s Regent Beverly Wilshire.

Rob Thomas’s song “If You’re Gone,” songwriter Brad Arnold of 3 Doors Down and Universal Music Publishing were the big winners, while rock ’n’ roll legends Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard were on hand to receive the first BMI Icon Awards for their “unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers.”

Berry, Richard and Diddley sat beaming at their tables in tuxes as an all-star band—assembled by Steve Jordan, featuring session aces Waddy Wachtel and saxophonist Jim Horn—paid tribute to the cornerstones of rock & roll. George Thorogood nodded toward his mentor Diddley with a spirited "Who Do You Love?"; Ivan Neville shared Little Richard’s New Orleans roots by playing some vintage Penniman, then clutched a rare Specialty single he wanted him to sign, while Jonny Lang and Mavis Staples leaned into several Chuck Berry standards, including "Back in the U.S.A."

While over 150 individual writers and publishers were honored during the event, the BMI Pop Song of the Year award went to the aforementioned “If You’re Gone,” while Arnold, with four of the 50 most-played songs, was named BMI Pop Songwriter of the Year.

With 11 songs in the top 50, including Arnold’s four, Universal Music Publishing was named BMI Pop Publisher of the Year. UMP President David Renzer accepted the crystal obelisk, saying he would be proud to add it to his collection of obelisks made of various materials from around the world.

As part of the festivities, major publishing execs, including Les Bider, Jody Gerson and Renzer, had their photos taken with BMI President/CEO Frances Preston. As exciting as that was, according to one HITS pinhead in attendance, the true highlight of the evening was hearing the dignified Preston repeatedly announce from the podium the Jay-Z title, “Big Pimpin’.”

Those on hand included Renzer and Tom Sturges of publishing winner Universal Music, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, David Foster, Jeff Barry, Leiber & Stoller, Josh Groban, Denise Rich, Crazy Town, Lifehouse, Evan and Jaron, Lee Ann Womack, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Mac Davis, Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath, Connie Stevens, Stephen Bishop, EMI Music’s Martin Bandier and Gerson, Warner/Chappell’s Bider, Rick Shoemaker and Kenny MacPherson, legal eagle Jay Cooper, manager Michael Lippman and son Josh, Zomba’s Neil Portnow and Jonathan McHugh, Columbia's Tim Devine, along with BMI heavies Del Bryant, Barbara Cane, Robin Ahrold, Pat Baird and Hanna Bolte, among many, many others.