Gordon Kennedy, a Grammy award-winning guitarist, songwriter and Belmont alumnus, received the sixth annual Robert E. Mulley Award for Excellence at the Best of the Best Showcase Saturday night.
The award has been given at the event since the spring of 2008 to individuals who have achieved success in the music business, along with a track record of service to the university.
Kennedy is perhaps most well-known for his part in writing the 1997 Song of the Year, “Change the World,” as performed by Eric Clapton. He has also worked with a variety of musicians, including bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs and classic rock guitarist Peter Frampton.
Both of them performed alongside Kennedy during the concert.
While he was officially presented with the award during the showcase itself, a private ceremony for Belmont donors, trustees and friends of Kennedy was held beforehand in the Vince Gill Room to commemorate his achievement.
University President Bob Fisher was the first to speak, providing some background on the establishment of the award and setting the stage for the rest of the evening.
Other notable speakers who followed were Dan Huff, a producer and childhood friend of Kennedy, and Tracy Kennedy, Gordon’s wife.
Huff described Kennedy’s guitar playing as “soulful, nuanced, intentional, economical and thoughtful” and then likened it to Kennedy’s life as a whole.
“Gordon’s never been about himself,” he said. “The way he plays guitar is the way he lives.”
Tracy Kennedy, his wife of 27 years, had much to say in few words.
She commended Kennedy for using his musical gifts for good, and said he just “wants his music to bless you.”
Following this was the actual presentation of the award, which was revealed to be a special painting of a guitar emblazoned with the sentiment, “You’ve changed our world.”
Kennedy himself spoke next, but had little to say about himself. He instead focused on his faith, those in attendance, and the impact they had on his life.
“Everyone who’s done what they could for me is here,” he said. “You’re gonna swing a spotlight on me tonight, but if there’s any light on me, it’s reflected off you. And if there’s in any light in me it is because of Him, who is the light of the world.”
Frampton was not in attendance at the ceremony, and therefore could not be reached for comment. Skaggs, however, was, and mirrored everyone else’s attitudes towards the night’s honoree.
“As great as a musician and guitarist Gordon is, he’s an even better person,” he said. “I want to push him into the spotlight, because he wants to get out of it.”
Regardless of what Kennedy may have wanted, though, he spent plenty of time in the spotlight, performing such songs as the Frampton classic, “Baby I Love Your Way,” and then being presented the award yet again in front of a live audience.
Once again, he opted not to talk about himself, but instead offered some advice to everyone in the audience, including the students.
“It is my prayer that you have these peers that will all come together to celebrate what you mean for each other and what you’ve done for each other,” he said.
Kennedy ended the presentation with a short, but sweet statement that summed up the entire night.
“Tonight, I’m the blessed of the blessed.”