Steve Cropper knew “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” and “Knock On Wood” had the potential to be monster hits as soon as penned them. But executives at the legendary Stax Records saw them as recording session outtakes.
“(‘Knock on Wood’) literally got thrown off the session, because they didn’t think it was good enough and they thought it sounded too much like ‘Midnight Hour,”’ the renowned songwriter/guitarist recalled Thursday. “It sat on the shelf for like nine months.”
Both songs, which Cropper co-wrote, went on to become pop classics. And on Thursday, Cropper was an inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
“To have these songs last as long as they have is really overwhelming,” Cropper told The Associated Press before the ceremony. “It’s still exciting to me. To me, there’s nothing more exciting than a song you wrote and produced in the studio being played on the radio.”
Besides Cropper, other inductees included John Fogerty, Isaac Hayes and David Porter, Richard and Robert Sherman, and Bill Withers. Smokey Robinson, a previous inductee, was picked to get the Johnny Mercer Award, while relative newcomer Alicia Keys was selected for the Starlight Award, given to accomplished young songwriters.
Les Paul, who celebrated his 90th birthday Thursday, was the choice for the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award.
“He’s one of the all-time great guitarists, and worked wonders making guitars, and here he is still around, still playing and having this great award on his birthday,” said Hal David, chairman and CEO of the hall.
Cropper, a member of Booker T & the MGs and an integral part of the Stax Records legacy, has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But he said the songwriters’ honor was special.
“From my point of view,” he said, “I look at this as almost as the Academy Awards of the music industry. It’s more about your work and what you’ve done, rather than whether you’ve had a hot year.”
Cropper said the work of songwriters too often goes unnoticed.
“I feel for the songwriters. I’m always there cheering them on,” he said. “The songwriters, I think they are the unsung heroes, and they really take the brunt of the industry.”