VINCE GILL, EMMYLOU HARRIS, KESHA AND MAREN MORRIS COME TOGETHER AT ALL FOR THE HALL NEW YORK FUNDRAISER IN SUPPORT OF THE COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME® AND MUSEUM
The gala featured a new song written and performed by fifth-grade students from P.S. 169 Baychester Academy and cowriters Carly Pearce, Liz Rose and Phil Barton, to highlight the educational program museum’s Words & Music
NEW YORK—An all-star lineup reaching across generations and genres drew a rousing response from a sold-out PlayStation Theater audience during a stylish All for the Hall fundraising concert for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on February 13. The fundraiser marked the tenth All for the Hall benefit to be held in Los Angeles or New York. To date the All for the Hall benefit concerts in New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville have netted more than $4.3 million in support of the Museum’s educational program.
Vince Gill hosted the event, as he has from the start of the All for the Hall series. He was joined by fellow Country Music Hall of Fame member Emmylou Harris, who has performed at ten All for the Hall gatherings since 2007. This year, Gill and Harris were joined by multi-platinum-selling pop star Kesha and Grammy-winning country singer Maren Morris, both of whom have strong ties to Nashville and its songwriting community.
Morris recalled her first visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, taking her time to examine the museum’s galleries shortly after moving to Nashville from Texas five years ago. “I learned so much about my heroes and this music I grew up with and love,” Morris said. She then underlined the importance of the museum’s mission to collect and preserve an important part of the American story. “I’m so honored to be here now and to be a part of this.”
Gill chose to focus on female artists this year, reflecting the mood of society and the #MeToo movement The evening’s performances demonstrated the empowerment felt by women to address musically the social issues that affect them.
Gill emphasized part of his theme with a performance of a new song, “Forever Changed,” which addresses molestation, the lasting damage it can have on victims, and the ultimate judgment abusers will face in the afterlife. “It’s a tough subject to write about,” Gill said. “It’s in the spirit of what’s going on these days, with a lot of people struggling, being wounded and being hurt.”
Gill first performed the tender, compassionate song a week earlier at the Country Radio Seminar, where he spoke for the first time about his own experience of dealing with inappropriate touching by a sports coach when Gill was in elementary school. The issue of sexual assault hung in the air during the concert, as did the violence and mass shootings that have been rampant in America in recent years.
Kesha and Morris both spoke of their participation in Tuesday’s fundraising concert as a “full circle” moment. Morris recalled first meeting Gill at a previous All for the Hall fundraiser, in Nashville, just after her first hit, “My Church,” drew accolades from fans and from other artists, including Gill, who called her “one of the best new artists to come along in decades.”
After that All for the Hall meeting, Morris said she got up the nerve to ask Gill if he would play guitar on the demo recording of “Dear Hate,” a song she had just written with Tom Douglas and David Hodges. At the time, the song’s message was a response to the gunning down of several members of an African-American church in South Carolina and the ambush on police officers in Dallas. Gill agreed to add guitar licks to Morris’s song, and she sent the recording to him, so Gill could work on it in his home studio. Gill was so moved by the song that he decided to sing the second stanza and, when sending it back to Morris, called to tell her what he had done, telling her that she could ignore it or use, whatever she wished.
“I’ve worked with a thousand artists,” Gill said, but he had never been so bold as to add his voice to a recording without being invited. Morris loved it, calling it the best compliment she could have received.
Morris was not sure what she would do with the song, because of its weighty message. However, after the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, where fifty-eight people were murdered and more than five hundred were wounded, Morris decided to release the song on YouTube and donate the proceeds to a fund for the victims of the massacre.
As Gill sang his portion of the song, his voice cracked with emotion, and he struggled to finish his part. The performance drew one of many rousing responses from the audience.
For her full-circle moment, Kesha spoke of growing up in the songwriting community of Nashville, thanks to her mother, Pebe Sebert, an accomplished songwriter. Kesha’s latest album, Rainbow, includes a duet with Dolly Parton on “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You”), written by her mother and Hugh Moffatt, and a #1 country hit for Parton in 1980.
At age sixteen, Kesha decided to focus on writing and performing dance-pop, she said. But as her songwriting took a more personal direction, she wanted to move away from what she described as her “silly” songs and to embrace her country music influences. “I grew up with country music, and I’ve always loved it,” she said.
She told of her past, and her new direction, when introducing the love song “Godzilla” from her new album. Later, after Morris and Gill performed “Dear Hate,” Kesha decided to skip a song she had planned to perform and instead pulled out “Spaceship,” also from her 2017 album, about how she would prefer to live in outer space instead of in a troubled and violent world.
The concert included many memorable moments. Gill and Harris harmonized on a beautiful version of “If I Needed You,” a Townes Van Zandt song that Harris recorded with Don Williams, a Country Music Hall of Fame member who died in 2017. Gill performed a heart-tugging version of “The Key to Life,” a
tribute to his father, whose love of the banjo and guitar led Gill to a musical career.
In addition to performing her hits “My Church” and “I Could Use a Love Song,” Morris surprised the crowd with “Greener Pastures,” a lighthearted ode to smoking pot, a song she cowrote that was recorded by the Brothers Osborne. Kesha had fun presenting stripped-down versions of her older pop hits, “Blow” (a 2011 hit from her album Cannibal) and “Your Love Is My Drug” (from her 2010 album Animal). Harris showed off her songwriting prowess with “My Antonia” and “Michelangelo,” from her 2000 album Red Dirt Girl.
The All for the Hall campaign began in 2005, when Gill suggested country music artists contribute the proceeds of one annual performance to benefit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Two years later, Gill launched the All for the Hall concert series, For the New York and Los Angeles benefits, Gill and Harris lead a “guitar pull,”: a Nashville institution in which the participants sit together on stools and take turns presenting works while the others listen or add accompaniment. The format encourages relaxed interaction between performers, and on this night the multi-generational lineup cracked jokes, praised each other, and testified to the power of music to heal, empower, and unite.
Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, informed the crowd in his welcoming speech that what they were about to experience would have “no precedent and no replication.” The lineup for the concert is a one-off event that will only be experienced once, and only by
those in attendance.
From the standing ovation that greeted the opening performance by fifth-graders from a Bronx elementary school, to the standing ovation two hours later as the concert ended, the audience realized what a uniquely special concert they had attended. When Morris reacted to Gill and Harris’s version of “If I Needed You” by exclaiming, “I loved hearing that in person,” the crowd agreed. It was a sentiment that could have been expressed repeatedly throughout the evening.
The proceeds from the All for the Hall New York concert will be earmarked for the museum’s education department, which reached nearly 109,000 people in 2017. The All for the Hall series, produced by museum board members Rod Essig, Ken Levitan, Gary Overton and Jody Williams, launched in 2005 and began traveling to New York in 2007 and has since notched ten shows. The series has alternated between New York and Los Angeles in succeeding years, with Gill and Harris as the hosts in an acoustic format. Along with Keith Urban, Gill also hosts a regular All for the Hall concert in Nashville at Bridgestone Arena. The series has gained a reputation for presenting one-of-a-kind concerts.
A sampling of past performers includes Jason Aldean, Gregg Allman, Zac Brown, Sheryl Crow, Rodney Crowell, Melissa Etheridge, Levon Helm, Chris Isaak, Kris Kristofferson, Jason Mraz, Kacey Musgraves, Brad Paisley, Lionel Richie, Paul Simon, Chris Stapleton, Taylor Swift, James Taylor, Carrie Underwood, Joe Walsh and Dwight Yoakam.
The All for the Hall New York concert illustrated how intertwined country music is with other forms of popular music. Exploring those connections and the cultural and historical importance of American music across genres and generations is part of the mission of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and it’s a story the museum tells every day in its exhibits, publications and educational programs.
All for the Hall New York is made possible with generous support from
Academy of Country Music
AEG Live/Bowery Presents
Jennifer and Roger Brown
Charles R. Carroll
Corner Partnership, LLC
Creative Artists Agency
The Harlan Family
Anne and Kurt Locher
Loeb & Loeb LLP
Palisades Hudson Financial Group
RBC/City National Bank
Red Light Management
Ryman Hospitality Properties
Margaret and Chris Stewart
Judy and Steve Turner
Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation
*As of 11/27/17
Rod Essig, CAA
Ken Levitan, Vector Management
Jody Williams, BMI