June is Black Music Month and Black excellence in music was on display Thursday night in New York City, as the Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted The Isley Brothers, Mariah Carey, The Neptunes and legendary Motown songwriter and executive William “Mickey” Stevenson. Lil Nas X received the Hal David Starlight Award, given to a young songwriter who’s making an impact in the industry with their original songs.
Mariah was inducted by Questlove, and in her honor, Yolanda Adams and a choir sang “Make It Happen” and “Fly Like a Bird,” while Boyz II Men‘s Wanya Morris and a young singer named Liamani performed a medley of Mariah’s many hits, from “Hero” and “One Sweet Day” to “We Belong Together” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”
On the red carpet, Wanya told ABC Audio that Mariah was long overdue for the honor. “Definitely — Mariah has been writing since the beginning of her career,” he said. “And it’s only right for her to be inducted into this beautiful, beautiful…I guess you can say, company. The company of greats — because she’s a great artist.”
The Isley Brothers were inducted by Leslie Odom Jr., and performed a medley of their hits, including “Who’s That Lady,” “Between the Sheets,” “It’s Your Thing” and “Shout.” Smokey Robinson inducted Stevenson and sang his best-known composition: Martha & the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street.”
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis inducted fellow songwriting/producing team The Neptunes — Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo — who were then saluted by Jon Batiste and Usher.
On the red carpet, Chad said he and Pharrell being honored for their songwriting was “awesome,” while Pharrell told ABC Audio. “I am actually really honored. I just don’t know what else to say beyond that because I didn’t expect this….it hasn’t hit me yet!”
Pharrell did, however, comment on this weekend’s Juneteenth celebration, calling it “justice” that the holiday is now a “federal mandate.”
“That’s what we fight for,” he told reporters. “Because Black people being free or LGBTQ people being free, that’s human beings being free. That’s Americans being free. Now we just got to work on all the other demographics being free, because not everybody is.”
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