Luminaries from the film, music and writing worlds honored Tom Waits and folk singer John Prine for their songwriting at the Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Awards on Monday. Waits' wife, Kathleen Brennan, also was honored.
John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello and Roseanne Cash took turns performing renditions of the artists' songs before a crowd of more than 500 people at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Mellencamp opened the ceremony with an a cappella version of Prine's 1978 song "Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone," which imagines the later years of an Indian child actor from the early 1940s. Mellencamp called the lyrics "sophisticated but simple."
"Who writes songs like that?" he said. "Two people come to mind — God and John Prine."
Irish author Colum McCann, director Jim Jarmusch, country singer Sturgill Simpson and Peter Wolf of the J. Geils Band reflected on the artists' accomplishments in remarks that ranged from personal to poetic.