NEW YORK, NY -- Over 500 songwriters, recording artists and music industry leaders gathered at the 20th Anniversary ASCAP Rhythm and Soul Music Awards, held June 25th at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, CA, to salute the top songwriters and publishers behind the most popular music of 2006. A special highlight of the evening was the presentation of the ASCAP Voice of Music Award to "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul" Mary J. Blige.
Marilyn Bergman, ASCAP President and Chairman, hosted the all-star gathering, which included special guest presenters Akon, Keri Hilson, MC Lyte, The Underdogs, Ted Winn and others, plus live performances by some of today's hottest stars and emerging artists, including Keyshia Cole, Biz Markie, Wynter Gordon, Rock City, Karen Clark Sheard and Ne-Yo.
With three award-winning songs apiece, Mary J. Blige, Johntá Austin and Jermaine "JD" Dupri shared the coveted Songwriter of the Year title.
This past year was a huge one for Mary J. Blige -- her album "The Breakthrough" hit big, winning her critical praise and selling nearly seven million copies worldwide. The album swept the American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards and the Grammys, and set the stage for her career retrospective "Reflections," released at the end of 2006. Blige earned her first ASCAP Songwriter of the Year award for two of the blockbuster hits from "The Breakthrough," "Be Without You" and "Enough Cryin," and for her collaboration with Busta Rhymes, "Touch It (Remix)."
Johntá Austin has quickly risen through the ranks to join the songwriting elite. Earlier this year, he was named ASCAP Pop Songwriter of the Year along with Jermaine "JD" Dupri. He was honored last night for co-writing the Mary J. Blige hit "Be Without You," Mariah Carey's "Don't Forget About Us," and "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)" for Chris Brown.
From the soulful R&B of Mariah Carey's "Don't Forget About Us" to the Chingy and Tyrese hip-hop ballad "Pullin' Me Back" to the hot club track "Grillz," the winning songs that Jermaine "JD" Dupri penned in 2006 show the versatility of this amazing songwriter and producer. This is his sixth time being named ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Songwriter of the Year and his third consecutive win. In 2005, Dupri earned the prestigious ASCAP Golden Note Award, and earlier this year, he was named ASCAP's Pop Songwriter of the Year.
"Be Without You" also earned Austin and Blige this year's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Song award. "Grillz" claimed the Top Ringtone of the Year award and was also recognized in the Rap and R&B/Hip-Hop categories.
EMI Music Publishing was named Publisher of the Year for their 16 award-winning songs. This is the 13th consecutive win for EMI and the 15th time in the 20-year history of the awards show that they have received this honor.
The evening was highlighted with a special tribute to Mary J. Blige who was presented with the ASCAP Voice of Music Award. This award is given to recognize artists and songwriters whose music illuminates people's lives through song. Previous recipients include Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Diane Warren and Jimmy Webb, among others. Many friends and collaborators were on hand to pay tribute to Blige: Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis introduced a tribute video celebrating her 15-year career; Ron Fair, Chairman, Geffen Records, joined Marilyn Bergman onstage to present the award; and Keyshia Cole, Wynter Gordon and Karen Clark Sheard -- accompanied by the Rhythm & Soul House Band under the direction of Nisan Stewart -- capped off the tribute with stunning performances of some of Blige's songs.
Top Soundtrack Song of the Year honors went to "Check On It" from "The Pink Panther." Co-written by Angela Beyince, Beyoncé, Sean Garrett and Swizz Beatz, with the original theme music by the late Henry Mancini, the song was also recognized in the R&B/Hip-Hop category.
Sean Paul was named Reggae Artist of the Year for the fourth consecutive year and also earned two awards in the Rap category for "Temperature" and "(When You Gonna) Give It Up To Me."
Yung Joc's "It's Goin' Down," written by Nitti, was named Top Rap Song and also earned an award in the R&B/Hip-Hop category. The song reached #1 on Billboard's Hot Rap Tracks chart and received a 2006 Grammy nomination for Best Rap Song.
"Looking For You," written by Sheree Brown, Charles Mims and Patrice Rushen, was named Top Gospel Song. Performed by Kirk Franklin, the song remained on Billboard's Top Gospel Songs chart for 49 weeks, peaking at the #1 spot.
Among the songwriters with multiple award-winning songs were: Mary J. Blige, Johntá Austin and Jermaine "JD" Dupri with three each, and Beyoncé, Keyshia Cole, LRoc, Ludacris, Stargate's Mikkel Eriksen (PRS) and Tor Hermansen (PRS), Sean Garrett and Sean Paul with two each.
Honorees and notables in attendance included: Mary J. Blige, Johntá Austin, Jermaine "JD" Dupri, Akon, Chingy, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Alicia Keys, Biz Markie, Kandi Burruss, Chamillionaire, Keyshia Cole, Dem Franchize Boyz, Dre & Vidal, Ron Fair, Dave "Jam" Hall, Andre Harrell, Lalah Hathaway, Keri Hilson, Jimmy Iovine, Krayzie Bone, L.A. Reid, Letoya, LRoc, Lyfe Jennings, Mary Mary, MC Lyte, Ne-Yo, Papoose, Play N Skillz, Polow Da Don, Rah Digga, Sylvia Rhone, Rock City, Patrice Rushen, Karen Clark Sheard, "American Idol's" Jordin Sparks, Blake Lewis, Lakisha Jones and Melinda Doolittle, Stargate, Swizz Beatz, Tank, T.I., The Underdogs, Narada Michael Walden, Michelle Williams, Ted Winn and Young Dro, among others.
For the complete list of winners, please go to