This may be the most remarkable photograph I’ve ever been part of: Here’s how it came about. When I was president of PEN America, I argued that we lived in a great age of lyrics writing - Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Holland-Dozier-Holland of Motown fame, as well as several of the folks pictured above - and we should expand the definition of literary excellence to include this work. In the end, the goal was achieved after my presidency ended, by PEN’s New England branch in Boston, and a jury was convened. This was the jury, convened by music industry good guy extraordinaire Bill Flanagan, author, journalist, ex-MTV and VH1 exec, radio host, etc etc: Bono, Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello, Smokey Robinson, Paul Simon, the poet Paul Muldoon, and me. We decided, to lend drama to the event, that instead of giving out one award a year we would give out two every two years. In that first year, after much discussion. we settled on Chuck Berry and Leonard Cohen as the first recipients.
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