Toby Keith Inducted Into Songwriters Hall of Fame: “This Is the Only Award I Ever Wanted”

Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall Of Fame

Country music played a big part in the annual Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony, held in New York City on Thursday night.  Toby Keith and legendary songwriter Bobby Braddock were both inducted, while Jennifer Nettles and Zac Brown showed up to perform in honor of the night’s inductees.

“If I wouldn’t have been an artist, I still would’ve been a songwriter. I’d have shoved those songs down somebody’s throat,” Toby told ABC Radio on the red carpet. “But I have a great vehicle. I happen to be an artist too.”

“I don’t know if people know that I wrote all that stuff, but I outworked everybody,” he added. “I put a[n] album out every year, I wrote 99 percent of it and this is the reward you get. And this is the only award I ever wanted. Entertainer of the Year and all the other stuff I got — Album of the Year, Vocalist of the Year — I don’t care. This is the one I wanted.”

Zac Brown was at the event to salute not a country songwriter, but late Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia and his lyricist partner, Robert Hunter.  On the red carpet, Zac told reporters about the influence the legendary rock band had on him.

“I’ve been covering Dead songs since ,y’know, I was probably 15, 16,” he said. “I read the book Dark Star, which is a lot of stories…around what Jerry has done and what they did. They basically invented outdoor P.A. systems — from that, to the culture they made with their fans…the connection is there: the legacy that they made and created is very inspiring and definitely influential on me.”

Jennifer Nettles was on hand to pay tribute to one of the night’s other inductees, Bobby Braddock, who wrote or co-wrote hits for George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Tracy Lawrence, Toby Keith, Mark Chesnutt, Billy Currington and more.  On the red carpet, Jennifer gushed to ABC Radio about Braddock’s most famous song, the George Jones classic “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

“It is the quintessential, most beautiful, most heartbreaking country song, I think, that has ever been written,” she said. “And so, for me to get to sing it tonight, I mean…I have such vivid memories of being a little girl and listening to this song and realizing what it was about and, of course, he dies, which is perfect for country!” 

She laughed, “Spoiler alert, he dies, folks! Welcome to country! So, it’s just gorgeous.” 

The night’s other inductees included Cyndi Lauper and Linda Perry, the former frontwoman of the ’90s group 4 Non Blondes, who went on to pen hits like Christina Aguilera‘s “Beautiful.”

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