The 2017 inductees of the Songwriters Hall of Fame were announced Wednesday morning, with hip-hop icon Jay Z and one-man hit factory Max Martin leading a class that also includes Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and three members of Chicago.
With his induction, Jay Z becomes the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall. His standout tracks include the Alicia Keys duet “Empire State of Mind,” “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” and “03 Bonnie & Clyde” with Beyoncé, among many others.
The 21-time Grammy winner “was in a space where, even though he’s had more pop albums than anyone else, because he did it through rap,” it took longer for traditional voters to consider him, said Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers, who announced the inductees on CBS This Morning. “It’s massive. He has changed the way that we listen to music. He’s changed the way that we have fun.”
Take Jay Z out of the mix and it’s still an impressive class this year: Martin holds the distinction of having written or co-written 22 No. 1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100, third only to John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Over the years, Gordy contributed many songs for his legendary stable of Motown artists, including hit tracks for Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye. Babyface’s prolific career has yielded 16 No. 1s, including Madonna’s “Take a Bow” and Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road.” The team of Jam & Lewis have penned hits for Michael Jackson, Gwen Stefani, Usher, Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey, among others. Finally, the Chicago trio of Robert Lamm, James Pankow and Peter Cetera have a list of classic rock gems including “25 or 6 to 4,” “Saturday in the Park” and “If You Leave Me Now.”
“With our 2017 roster of inductees, the Songwriters Hall of Fame moves definitively into recognizing music creators of the 21st century while continuing to honor the greats of earlier decades. The combination of contemporary sounds and timeless hits of the past is certain to make for an unforgettable evening,” said Hall co-chairs Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff and President Linda Moran. “The songwriters we honor cross genre, regional and even national boundaries – R & B, Rap, Pop and Rock & Roll from both coasts, the American heartland and Sweden. We are thrilled to once more have the opportunity to preside over an event that recognizes the convergence of song craft and musical performance at the very highest level.”
Following the news, Warner/Chappell Chairman & CEO Jon Platt praised Jay Z’s achievement in a memo to staff: “Since his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, was released over two decades ago, it’s been an incredible honor to work with the greatest MC of all time as he continues to achieve the unprecedented. Today, his songwriting is celebrated with a new, landmark achievement: being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. With this announcement, Jay is also the first rap artist to ever be inducted into the SHOF. This is an enormous accomplishment for Jay, as well as on behalf of fellow hip-hop songwriters everywhere, as he takes his place alongside past inductees and legends, ranging from Bob Dylan to Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye to Lennon & McCartney.”
Last year’s inductees included Tom Petty, Elvis Costello and Marvin Gaye.
The Hall’s 48th Annual Induction and Awards Dinner will take place June 15 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City. Additional special award honorees will be announced soon.