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Toby Keith wins big at BMI music awards

Merle Haggard honored as country-music icon
/ Source: The Associated Press

Toby Keith’s hit “As Good As I Once Was” has won country song of the year, and Country Music Hall of Famer Merle Haggard was honored as an icon during the BMI Music Awards.

Keith also shared BMI’s songwriter of the year prize with Vicky McGehee and Ed Hill as the performing rights organization Broadcast Music Inc. handed out the awards Saturday. Each had writing credits on three of the performing rights organization’s top 50 most-performed songs of the past year.

Keith’s three songs on the list were “As Good As I Once Was,” “Big Blue Note” and “Honkytonk U.”

The singer called the BMI event “my favorite awards show.”

“Here, you don’t even have to get nominated. I was a songwriter first, before I was an artist, and I’ll be a songwriter forever,” he said.

Keith now has three BMI songwriter of the year awards.

The centerpiece of the evening was the presentation of BMI’s Icon award to Haggard. Martina McBride, John Anderson and Hank Williams Jr. performed in honor of the singer-songwriter who is regarded as one of the most important artists in the history of country music.

Past Icon winners include Paul Simon, Brian Wilson, Dolly Parton, James Brown, Carlos Santana, Isaac Hayes and Ray Davies.

“He’s been my favorite singer for many years, but he’s that great as a songwriter, too,” said country singer and songwriter Bill Anderson. “He writes with such feeling, such depth and such simplicity, and he gets more out of a sad song than anybody.”

Haggard, 69, was raised in Bakersfield, Calif., and is credited with helping define country music’s “Bakersfield sound.” He broke onto the charts in 1963 with “Sing a Sad Song” and went on to write and record dozens of hits, including “Workin’ Man Blues,” “Okie from Muskogee” and “Mama Tried.”

Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville published 15 songs in BMI’s top 50, and was named publisher of the year.

Along with ASCAP and SESAC, BMI is an organization that collects royalties for songwriters and publishers.