Kris Kristofferson Chooses Garth Brooks for Songwriter Award

The Nashville Songwriters Association, or NSAI will be holding their annual Nashville Songwriter Awards on September 20th at the Ryman Auditorium, and the big name that will be making a big splash for the event will be Garth Brooks, who will receive the organization’s Kris Kristofferson Lifetime Achievement Award.

But wait, Garth Brooks is receiving a songwriter lifetime achievement award, and one named after Kris Kristofferson? Sure, Garth Brooks is considered a fine songwriter by some, and he did co-write a few on his signature hits such as “If Tomorrow Ever Comes” and “The Thunder Rolls.” But you don’t exactly think of Garth Brooks when you think of prolific or award-winning country music songwriters.

What makes this okay is that it was Kris Kristofferson who made the decision himself. He’s the one who gets to choose the recipients for the NSAI Lifetime Achievement award named after him. This is only the 4th time the award has been given out, with Willie Nelson earning the inaugural award in 2013, Bill Anderson winning it in 2018, and Loretta Lynn in 2019. Apparently this year, Kristofferson felt it was Garth’s opportunity.

“It’s pretty damn embarrassing to give a man of Garth’s stature an award with my name on it,” Kristofferson said in a statement. “When Willie got one he said he could take care of that. Congratulations Garth, I am truly humbled and honored that you have accepted this! You belong on Mount Rushmore. See you there.”

Of course, Garth Brooks took a humble tone as always, including figuring out how to address himself in the first person.

“When they name awards after artists, that award takes on an even greater meaning. Kristofferson is known as the songwriter’s songwriter… and he should be,” Brooks said. “The honor is the name on the award and the names who have received it. My hope is that through time, the Garth Brooks name is worthy of such an honor. This is going to be a cool night.”

It isn’t unprecedented for the NSAI to give a songwriter award to somebody who isn’t exactly known as a songwriter, but has done significant work for songwriters throughout their career by championing those dedicated to the craft, and by taking quality songs and making them hits. In 2019, the NSAI awarded George Strait with the organization’s President’s Keystone Award, which was in “recognition of his contributions toward the betterment of all songwriters.” Strait is definitely not known as a songwriter (even less than Garth is), though Strait did write a few songs here and there, and has written much more on his recent records.

But one of the things that helped make the Nashville songwriting system work for so many years was guys like Garth Brooks and George Strait selecting quality songs, and making them hits. Kris Kristofferson benefited from that himself, with Janis Joplin and Johnny Cash cutting his songs early on. And hey, if Kris Kristofferson says Garth Brooks should have his award, who are we to question?

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