Sting performed in honour of Sir Elton John, Billy Joel sang snippets of Foreigner's hits and Smokey Robinson debuted part of a new song he wrote about Berry Gordy at the 44th annual Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony.
The New York event was full of star power that included Alison Krauss, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Nickelback, Petula Clark and Wiz Khalifa.
Tyler and Perry, Mick Jones and Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Holly Knight, JD Souther and Tony Hatch were inducted into the Songwriters Hall 2013 class.
Sir Elton and writing partner Bernie Taupin received the Johnny Mercer award, and Sting kicked off the night with a performance of Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting before calling the pair "my two heroes".
Elton, who was inducted into the Songwriters Hall in 1992, said songwriting is often taken for granted. "I don't mean this lightly, but when you get an Ivor Novello award or an American songwriter's award, it means so much more than a Grammy because this is where the whole process starts," he said.
He also used the stage to try to clear his differences with Joel. "I didn't see you tonight Mr Joel, but I want to see you," he said. Joel responded later when he was onstage. "Is Elton still here by the way?" he asked. "Anyway, we're OK. Call me. It's the same phone number."
Joel introduced Jones and Gramm, who gave the night's most rousing performance when they sang the Foreigner hits Juke Box Hero and I Want to Know What Love Is, which had the crowd singing along, standing and swaying side-to-side at the black tie event.
Petula Clark also stunned with her performance of Downtown, which Hatch wrote and produced in 1964. Hatch was entertaining on the piano as he sang a medley of tunes he wrote, including Clark's My Love and Bobby Rydell's Forget Him. Nickelback were impressive with their rendition of Aerosmith's Sweet Emotion, which was followed by the rock icons singing Walk This Way.
Robinson, who gave a lengthy, 15-minute introduction to Gordy, said he was recovering from inflamed vocal cords and hadn't performed in two months. Then he sang part of a new song he wrote about his relationship with Gordy, who he called his mentor, brother, sometimes dad and best friend.
Benny Blanco, the 25-year-old who has co-written number one hits for Katy Perry, Maroon 5 and Kesha, earned the Hal David Starlight award. "They picked the wrong person," said Blanco, who has also worked with Khalifa, Nicki Minaj and Bruno Mars. "I'm in a room with people I should probably be serving food to."