Waits, Prine Get Songwriting Honors

John PrineTom Waits, and Waits’ wife, Kathleen Brennan, were among those honored at the Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Awards in Boston Sept. 19.  

Photo: Steven Senne/AP
After being presented with the PEN New England’s Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award in Boston.

 John MellencampElvis Costello and Rosanne Cash took turns performing renditions of the artists’ songs before a corwd of more than 500 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Mellencamp did an a capella version of Prine’s 1978 song “Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone,” with lyrics that Mellencamp called “sophisticated but simple.”

“Who writes songs like that?” he asked. “Two people come to mind – God and John Prine.”

Irish author Colum McCann, director Jim Jarmusch, Sturgill Simpson and Peter Wolf also gave tribute to Prine’s abilities. Waits and Prine each treated the crowd to a song after giving brief remarks.

Waits reflected on working with Brennan, his longtime musical collaborator, who became the first woman to win the award since it was introduced in 2012.

“It’s not always fun writing together,” he said. “Sometimes the fur flies. It’s not an easy enterprise, but it’s satisfying.”