In 2012, PEN New England assembled an all-star awards committee—including Bono, Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello, Paul Muldoon, Smokey Robinson, Paul Simon, Salmon Rushdie, and committee chair Bill Flanagan—to bestow a long-awaited award celebrating literary excellence in song lyrics. They selected Chuck Berry and Leonard Cohen as the first two recipients.
The ceremony was held February 26th at the JFK Library. Honorees were joined by Elvis Costello, and special guests including Tom Perrotta, Salman Rushdie, Shawn Colvin, Paul Simon, and Keith Richards. Read more:
ABOUT THE 2012 WINNERS
Chuck Berry is one of the pioneers of rock and roll music, and writer of the hits "Promised Land," "Maybellene," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Rock and Roll Music," "Johnny B. Goode," "No Particular Place to Go," "You Never Can Tell," and "Nadine." His distinctive guitar style, narratively rich lyrics, and lively showmanship influenced generations of musicians, including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and helped transform the sound and appearance of popular music for years to come. Commenting on the breadth of Berry's influence, John Lennon famously said, "if you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it 'Chuck Berry'."
Leonard Cohen is a poet, novelist, and singer songwriter famous for writing and recording such classic songs as "Bird on a Wire," "Suzanne," "So Long, Marianne," "Sisters of Mercy," "Chelsea Hotel #2," "Everybody Knows," and "Hallelujah." His poems have earned wide acclaim, and Michael Ondaatje called Cohen's 1966 cult novel Beautiful Losers "the most vivid, fascinating and brave modern novel I have read."
Watch the 2012 Ceremony
Bono, Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello, Bill Flanagan, Paul Muldoon, Smokey Robinson, Salman Rushdie, Paul Simon, and Peter Wolf.