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The highlight of the org’s 2003 Pop Music Awards was a three-song performance by the evening’s Founders Award recipient Elvis Costello, who turned heads by canoodling (thank you, Page Six) with Grammy-winning jazz great Diana Krall after the pair recently made their engagement public.

COSTELLO’S AIM IS TRUE
AT ASCAP AWARDS

Receives Founders Award; Nelly, Seven Songwriters of the Year; EMI Music Publishing Tops
The record business may be depressed, but the music publishers party on.

A week after BMI handed out their annual awards for the 50 Most Performed Songs, ASCAP followed suit last night at Merv Griffin’s Beverly Hilton. The performing rights organization named rap superstar Nelly and hot tunesmith Seven its Songwriters of the Year (with three songs apiece), EMI Music Publishing its Publishers of the Year and Puddle of Mudd’s "Blurry" Song of the Year.

The highlight of the org’s 2003 Pop Music Awards was a three-song performance by the evening’s Founders Award recipient Elvis Costello, who turned heads by canoodling (thank you, Page Six) with Grammy-winning jazz great Diana Krall after the pair recently made their engagement public. The Costello tribute got underway with Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Solomon Burke, who came out for a yearning take on Elvis’ "The Judgment," a song Costello wrote especially for the soul great’s critically acclaimed comeback album last year.

The one-time angry-young-man-turned-music-biz-elder-statesman was introduced by collaborator Burt Bacharach following video greetings from past Founders Award winners Paul McCartney and a hilariously deadpan Tom Waits. Elvis joked about being the only winner of the award who "never had a hit." He also told about trying in vain to get the late Sammy Cahn to write lyrics for one of his songs, which the legendary tunesmith "hated." Elvis then brought on his band, which included singer/songwriter Joe Henry on guitar and longtime Attractions cohort Pete Thomas on drums, launching into "Almost Blue" and "Alison," before crooning a new torch song from his next album, slated for September release, solo at the piano.

Earlier, ex-Four Non-Blonde Linda Perry, now one of the hottest songwriters in pop music, admitted to a bout of nerves, having "not done this in awhile," before sitting down at the piano and leaning into a moving version of "Beautiful," her huge hit for Christina Aguilera. Perry took home an award for Pink’s "Get the Party Started."

ASCAP chief Marilyn Bergman got the evening off to a rousing start with a spirited defense of freedom of speech and a denunciation of radio’s boycott of the Dixie Chicks. It was a theme Costello came back to in his acceptance speech, bemoaning an erosion of the very ideals "for which you originally kicked us English out in the first place."

Among the individual award-winners on hand were soul legends Stevie Wonder and Rick James, who each prompted standing ovations, with James thanking ASCAP for being there during "my lowest lows and highest highs, which were pretty high," eliciting a knowing laugh from the room.

Stars making the rounds included ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, producer Don Was, Folksmen bassist Harry Shearer, members of award winners Jimmy Eat World, No Doubt and Incubus, as well as songwriting/producing trio The Matrix.

EMI Music Publishing was named publisher of the year for scoring 23 songs on the most-performed list, including Train’s "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)," No Doubt’s "Hella Good" and Enrique Iglesias’ "Hero."

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