It’s just a stone. It sits in front of the new Nashville Convention Center alongside several hundred other stones where thousands of people a day can scuff their shoes and drop gum with gay abandon. It’s just a stone …but it has my name on it.

It’s pretty great to have a stone with my name on it that I’m not lying under. This one is part of the Songwriter Hall of Fame that just opened today here in my hometown of Nashville. Up till now there was no physical Hall of Fame. When you were inducted you just existed in the minds and hearts of songwriters everywhere. Like Santa. Or Barbie Benton.

My stone has my name and the title of one of my songs, “That’s My Job.” It sits nestled next to “Rocky Top,” and “I’ll Fly Away.” How’s THAT for company? I’m sure those writers are hiring lawyers as we speak.

Today was the official unveiling and Georgia and I went down to hang around old friends and hear some Hall of Famers sing a song or two. These are all the folks that spend their careers behind the scenes…you know the expression..”It all starts with a song?” Well, without these people and their songs the major indigenous art form of America would be mime.

We walked in out of the late spring 95 degree heat and someone stepped up and gave me a name tag that simply said “Hall of Fame Member”.  Yup. That was enough for me. This was a truly 2013 museum display. No plaques on the walls…you have computer screens now that you scroll through alphabetically and pick a songwriter. His or her picture, story and discography come up instantly. Like Nintendo, only better.

Sitting in a row in front of the beautiful windows overlooking Nashville were the giants of songwriting…each playing a song or two through a tiny PA that barely cut through the excited conversations and catching-ups that were going on. I think the writers in the Hall were more excited about hearing their fellow members play their hits than the civilians were.

Pat Alger sang  “Unanswered Prayers,”  Bobby Braddock sang ”He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Jeez. Tom Schuyler sang his song about songwriters “Sixteenth Avenue,” and it never sounded more inspired or true. Larry Henly sang, “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Yes, these songs were thought up and written down by these people. With real live pencils and papers. They were not here when dinosaurs roamed the Earth or when the magma cooled. They were carved out of solid nothing , word by word and note by note, and given to the air like a magician pulling a dove out of his sleeve…to fly and become, like that air, something we all take for granted but could not live without.

I barely made it through the day with my well-deserved reputation for cynicism intact. My sunglasses came out several times to make sure the salty discharge from my mucous membranes did not make the humans think I was one of them.

Then I lost it. Not sure why this moment more than others did it for me. Don Schlitz, (amazing songwriter legend and number seven on the list of all time nice fellows) began to sing his Kenny Rogers’ song…”The Gambler.” First song he ever had recorded. This is not like having your first at-bat and hitting a homer. This is like picking up a brush for the first time and painting the Sistine Chapel. Only better. Cause it rhymes.

So he starts singing the song and I look around and he is hitting the chorus and I am singing along. The song is too perfect not to sing along. Everyone knows the chorus. You know why everyone knows the chorus? Cause it is that good. The President quotes that chorus. The Pope probably sings that chorus in Italian when he is deciding who to beatify. I look around the room and I see Rory Bourke singing along. I see Bobby Braddock singing along. I see Mike Reid singing along. Just some lips moving…but these are the best songwriters in the world being swept up in what they do because, even today…at the end of long, successful careers when they have every right to come here, check the spelling on their stones, and turn around and go home…they stay and sing along to a great song. Don’t know why that moved me so much but it did.

On the way home Georgia said that sixty years from now our grandkids can come to the Convention Center…the old, run down building that “You should have seen in 2013 when it opened”… and look at the stone, scrape off the gum, and say…”That’s our grandfather. He was a famous songwriter before he went crazy and took all those people hostage in a Kwicky Mart in Indiana.”

Certain parts of that legacy will be something to be proud of.

I’m going to lie down now before these emotions and feelings have a chance to take root and ruin me completely.