It may have begun with a song, but it ended in tribute.
Pulling out all the stops in its 28th Annual Awards at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto on Monday night, SOCAN lauded a number of songs and global achievements: bestowing a lifetime achievement award to Canada's most successful songwriting team - Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance; honouring Andy Kim with its Cultural Impact Award for his universal hit "Sugar Sugar;" lauding Paul "Nineteen85" Jeffreys as Songwriter of the Year for his contributions to Drake's "Hotline Bling," and "One Dance" and "Too Good;" feteing Hedley for National Achievement, and celebrating Heartland and Hawaii 5-0 composer Keith Power for his scoring prowess.
Laurels were distributed to those involved in musical genres across the stylistic spectrums in front of a packed house that included such music industry heavyweights as Bruce Allen, Jack Ross, Shane Carter, Jeffrey Remedios, Kim Cooke, Vince Degiorgio, Derrick Ross and many others.
It did seem, though, that the tandem of Adams and Vallance and their enormous impacts and influences on the domestic and global music scenes was the evening's spiritual lynchpin.
The pair, whose cavalcade of million-selling, chart-topping hits ranging from "Straight From The Heart" and "Run To You" to "Kids Wanna Rock" and "Summer of '69," helped raise world awareness of the Canadian music scene and break open the doors for international recognition for some of their peers, seemed to be referenced by just about every award winner.
Ron Sexsmith gently poked fun when helping Andy Kim receive the Cultural Impact Award for "Sugar Sugar" ("No other song could describe the feelings of that summer of '69 any better, unless, of course, it was called "The Summer of '69") and songwriter-producer-dvsn co-founder Nineteen85 told the crowd that the duo influenced him so much that he named his company Summer of '85 Productions after "The Summer of '69."
Four video reels of accolades from such peers as Sting, Steven Tyler, Ozzy Osbourne, Jeff Lynne, Gretchen Peters and Glass Tiger spotlighted their collective and individual achievements (Adams co-wrote his smash "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" with producer Mutt Lange and the late arranger Michael Kamen and Vallance mentored, produced and co-wrote the first two Glass Tiger albums, to mention two examples).
Grammy-winning producer Bob Ezrin then welcomed Vallance and Adams to the podium, citing their reputation for "this feverish commitment to the pursuit of perfection" as a key to their success.
Jim Vallance thanked everyone, especially his wife Rachel, his son Jimmy and his support system for "kicking my butt" out of a self-imposed retirement, which saw him reunite his full-album partnership with Adams for 2015's Get Up and the current Broadway musical the duo is working on based on the 1990 motion picture Pretty Woman.
"I feel so fortunate spending my entire life doing what I love - writing songs and making records - and I couldn't have wished for a more amazing partner to share the journey with than Bryan," said Vallance in his acceptance speech.
With his turn at the podium, Adams called making music "the greatest privilege" and recalled the early days of support from SOCAN "especially financially" when Adams revealed he didn't have two pennies to rub together.
"I had to borrow bus fare to get to Jim's house - from Jim," he recalled. "I had nothing - I owe everything to this man!"
The Lifetime Achievement Award wasn't Adams and Vallance's only accolades of the evening: they received SOCAN Classic Awards for 12 of their individual and combined songs, including "Heat of the Night" and "Teacher, Teacher," "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You)" (Adams), "Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?" (Adams), "Rag Doll" (Vallance) and "Spaceship Superstar" (Vallance.)
Earlier in the evening, Andy Kim, in accepting the Cultural Impact Award for "Sugar Sugar," a song that he wrote with fellow Brill Building legend Jeff Barry, said that songwriters generally "live in the state of our imaginations" and it was something he was grateful for.
He also said he hated the term "bubblegum," which was applied to the Archies, a group that didn't exist to the point where radio initially refused to play the song. But the song won out, and Kim claims that anywhere he goes in the world, people know it enough to finish it whenever he starts singing the chorus.
In accepting his award for Songwriter of the Year, Paul "Nineteen85" Jeffries said the best piece of advice he received was from Noah "40" Shebib, who told him, "Everybody's swinging for the fences. Everybody's trying to get that No. 1 hit. Don't worry about that. Just make music."
Other award winners included AV Composer of the Year Keith Power; Hedley for the National Achievement Award; Aubrey "Drake" Graham for International Achievement and Jahron Anthony "PartyNextDoor" Brathwaite.
The inaugural Publisher of the Year Awarded was awarded to Sony/ATV Music Publishing Canada.
There were a number of standout performances, including Ron Sexsmith's rendition of "Sugar Sugar;" Jess Moskaluke and Kelly Archer's duet of "Take Me Home;" Ruth B.'s take on "Heaven" and a show-closing trip down memory lane with Snow performing "Informer" and Maestro Fresh Wes partying it up with "Let Your Backbone Slide."
All in all, a great evening thanks to Eric Baptiste, Stan Meissner, Michael McCarty, Rodney Murphy and the rest of the SOCAN crew. Next stop: September 23 at Massey Hall, when Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Beau Dommage and Stephane Venne are inaugurated into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
For the full list of 2017 SOCAN Award winners, link to the SOCAN website later today.