LOS ANGELES -- The music and movie establishment paid tribute to Bob Dylan, honoring the poet-songwriter for a quarter century of achievement as an outspoken trendsetter in American popular music.
Songwriter Hal David, president of the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers, presented the group's second Founders Award to Dylan at a party Monday night at Chasen's restaurant that attracted a crowd including Elizabeth Taylor, Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Young and Burt Bacharach.
'I'd like to feel like I'm accepting this award for a lot of people who started out in rock 'n' roll and folk music, and never claimed to be as good as Johnny Mercer or Hal David or Jerome Kern or any of those people,' Dylan said.
'We just used that medium to write what we were feeling, you know. And I feel like I'm accepting this for a lot of other people who are in the same category I'm in.'
David referred to Dylan as a 'pioneer, innovator, trendsetter and poet of his generation,' saying ASCAP officials decided to give him the award -- first given two years ago to Stevie Wonder -- because of their esteem for the man 'whose legendary contributions have been a sustaining influence on the music of an entire generation.'
He also said the board 'thought it was time we let him know how much we care for him and what he stands for.' Dylan appreciated the thought, David added, describing the legendary but reclusive singer as 'tickled pink to be here ... and to have so many friends here.'
Dylan apparently shared those sentiments, ending his comments by reciting lyrics from a song that Elvis Presley quoted in accepting another award -- 'Without a song, the day would never end. Without a song, the road would never bend. When things go wrong, a man ain't got a song without a friend.'
Speaking later to reporters, Dylan said he thought it 'ironic that I'm honored for anything.' He also said of his work, 'I guess it's been inspiring. I know it's been inspiring to me to write it.'
Asked if he thought modern music was as significant as the songs of the '60s, he replied, 'Not really. But I think it's going to change. People are going to get sick of it.'
Dylan, dressed in black leather pants and a white scoop-necked T-shirt, spent most of the night sitting next to Taylor, talking with party guests.
The actress told reporters she admired Dylan most as a lyricist.
'He's a great poet and a marvelous musician,' she said. 'I love to read his lyrics. They're wonderful poetry.'
Several other musicians also shared their thoughts about Dylan - whose songs include such classics as 'Blowin' in the Wind,' 'It Ain't Me, Babe,' 'The Times They Are A-Changin'' and 'Like a Rolling Stone.'
Leonard Cohen, another singer-songwriter who emerged in the 1960s, called him 'one of the greatest hearts that has spoken of the heart in a long, long time.'
'Bob Dylan is a figure that arises every three or four hundred years,' he added. 'He represents and embodies all the finest aspirations of the human heart. He is unparalleled in the world of music and will remain a torch for all singers and all hearts for many generations to come.'
Singer Jennifer Warnes, recalling the time she first became aware of Dylan's music, said, 'I think I came awake at that time. It was a chance to use music as an expression for your really honest heart. Music had been a mask to me before that.'
Singer Michael McDonald, formerly of the Doobie Brothers, said he had a different reaction on hearing his first Dylan song.
'It was very strange to me when I first heard it -- I was pretty pop-music oriented at the time -- but I was very impressed.'
Chrissie Hynde, lead singer of the Pretenders, said she did not expect Dylan's fame to fade in the future, because 'if you're right about the truth, that doesn't ever change.'
'I don't think the world changes because of somebody's songs,' she added. 'But it helps. It makes people feel better, and there's some more awareness.'