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Posted at 1:39 p.m. on May 16, 2012
A panoply of songwriters serenaded solons Tuesday night during the annual “We Write the Songs” show, an invite-only performance spotlighting the Library of Congress’s burgeoning American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
Tunesmiths Stephen Bishop, Irving Burgie, Dino Fekaris, Dan Foliart, Melanie, Terri Nunn, Ray Parker Jr., Stephen Schwartz, Valerie Simpson, Chris Stapleton and Tom Whitlock all took their turns on stage, sharing anecdotes about their winding careers and the iconic songs they were entrusting to the LOC.
Each performer was introduced by a Member of Congress, some of whom shared either a personal connection with the songwriter — as was the case with Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Billy Long (R-Mo.) — while the rest were paired up according to basic geography (songwriter was born or had lived in their general area).
Parker was probably the liveliest show man, opening with “The Other Woman,” his most “mischievous” hit, and following it up with a guitar heavy cover of “Ghostbusters.”
“I was gonna put on a shirt and tie but I thought this would be better,” the singer said, puffing out the rhinestone-studded American flag on his designer t-shirt.
He joked that suiting up in D.C. might have inspired him to run for office. “I could see that happening,” he teased.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) heaped praise on octogenarian songwriter Burgie, introducing him as the “Francis Scott Key of Barbados;” Burgie penned the national anthem for his native Caribbean nation.
Burgie reveled in the attention, reminding folks that his original collaboration with Harry Belafonte, “Calypso,” became the first album in America to sell more than 1 million copies.
And he made sure to give folks a show, shuffling around on stage — almost all out strutting, in fact — while revisiting his most iconic tunes:
The crowd ate it up, rewarding Burgie with the first standing ovation of the night.
Long was folksy and charming during his speech — until he inadvertently stepped in it. The freshman lawmaker regaled the audience with a story about his early days in Washington, D.C., fondly recalling how “Dr. Billingsley” was one of the first people he met in town. I’m sure the Librarian of Congress, Dr. James Billington, appreciated knowing he’d made such a lasting impression (his actual name, not so much).
Lewis extolled the power of the performers’ influence, noting that, “Without music, the civil rights movement would have been a bird without wings:”
In the audience: Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and actress Jane Seymour. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) missed the performances but did make an appearance at the post-show reception.
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