Paul Simon at the Gershwin Awards
The Gershwin awards began in 2007 in order to acknowledge an individual's contribution to the genre of popular music. The award is named for the Gershwin brothers, Ira and Irwin, who are known for writing memorable pieces such as "Rhapsody in Blue," "Embraceable You," "An American in Paris," "Someone to Watch Over Me," and the opera "Porgy and Bess." The first recipient of the Gershwin Award was Paul Simon, who accepted the award on May 23, 2007.
Paul Simon at the awards gala
Paul Simon accepted the first Gershwin award as part of a concert gala at Washington, D.C.'s Warner Theatre. The concert showcased the music of Paul Simon and it featured the performances of many musical artists, including Art Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, Jame Taylor, Phillip Glass, Dianne Reeves, Lyle Lovett, Buckwheat Zydeco and Stephen Marley among others. Stevie Wonder would go on to receive the same award in the following year, 2008. While the award ceremony and concert gala was held in May, the event was televised on PBS as part of a special presentation on June 27th.
Established by the Library of Congress, The Gershwin Award is intended to recognize an artist's superior and lasting contribution to popular song. The Library of Congress uses similar criteria to selecting the nation's poet laureate as for the Gershwin Award. In addition to using internally devised criteria, the Library of Congress approaches members of the community to determine its honorees. In 2007, Paul Simon was selected as the first recipient of this national honor.