REM perform for the first time since 2007

R.E.M. backstage at the Hall of Fame Image source, Reuters
Image caption,

REM backstage at the Songwriters Hall of Fame (left to right): Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe and Bill Berry

  • Published

Earlier this week, rock group REM joked it would take "a comet" to bring the band back together on stage.

They must have spotted one in the night sky - because the quartet reformed to play a surprise acoustic rendition of Losing My Religion at the Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony in New York on Thursday.

It marked the first time all four members had performed in public since their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Formed in Athens, Georgia, REM went from cult indie band to one of the biggest-selling rock acts of the 1990s, with hits including Everybody Hurts, The One I Love and Man On The Moon.

This Twitter post cannot be displayed in your browser. Please enable Javascript or try a different browser.View original content on Twitter
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.
Skip twitter post by Anthony Mason

Allow Twitter content?

This article contains content provided by Twitter. We ask for your permission before anything is loaded, as they may be using cookies and other technologies. You may want to read Twitter’s cookie policy, external and privacy policy, external before accepting. To view this content choose ‘accept and continue’.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.
End of twitter post by Anthony Mason

Drummer Bill Berry left the band in 1997 after suffering a brain aneurysm while performing on stage.

The group continued as a trio until 2011 before parting ways.

"At that point, there wasn’t anything we could agree on really, musically - what kind of music, how to record it, are we gonna go on tour," guitarist Peter Buck told CBS News this week.

"We could barely agree on where to go to dinner. And now we can just agree on where to go to dinner."

Asked if the band would ever reform, he called it a bad idea, insisting "it would never be as good".

But they relented on Thursday, playing their biggest hit to an audience that included fellow Hall Of Fame inductees Steely Dan and Timbaland.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,

Michael Stipe paid tribute to his bandmates before performing

Accepting their honour, singer Michael Stipe spoke on behalf of the entire band.

"Writing songs and having a catalogue of work that we’re all proud of that is out there for the rest of the world for all time is hands-down the most important aspect of what we did," he said.

"Second to that is that we managed to do so all those decades and remain friends. And not just friends, dear friends.

"We are four people that very early on decided that we would own our own masters and we would split our royalties and songwriting credits equally," he continued.

"All for one and one for all."

In the CBS News interview, the band said being inducted to the Songwriters Hall Of Fame was a major milestone.

"We lived or died on the strength of our songs," Buck said. "So this is a huge honour."

"It is the hardest thing that we do," added bassist Mike Mills, "and it is the thing that we worked on the very most from the beginning."

The 'bumblebee' hit song

The group also discussed the surprise success of Losing My Religion.

Released in 1991, the mandolin-powered ballad helped the group sell 18 million copies of their seventh album, Out Of Time, turning them into global superstars.

"I loved the song, but we never thought it was gonna be a hit," said Stipe.

"It's like a bumblebee," added Mills. "They shouldn't be able to fly. That song shouldn't have been a hit."

And Berry reflected on the illness that prompted his departure from music.

"That thing in Switzerland – brain aneurysm and successful surgery - it may have lowered my energy level. And I just didn't have the drive I once did," he told reporter Anthony Mason.

After leaving REM, the drummer moved back to Georgia and worked on his hay farm.

"I didn't regret it at the time," he said. "Um, I sort of regretted it a little later."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,

Timbaland conducted a medley of his biggest hits

REM were inducted to the Songwriters Hall Of Fame by country star Jason Isbell, who preceded them on stage with a rendition of the tongue-twisting hit It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).

"I’ve never said that many words that quickly in my whole life," he joked afterwards.

Missy Elliot inducted her longtime writing partner and producer Timbaland, who has also created hits for Justin Timberlake, Aaliyah, Ginuwine, Nelly Furtado and Jay-Z.

"Timbaland literally changed the cadence of the time, because he also treated hip-hop records like R&B records," she said. "He would take the hooks and put a different sound."

The producer, whose real name is Timothy Mosley, dedicated his award to Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash in 2001.

"I want to thank baby girl, rest in peace, I hope you’re watching," he said.

Steely Dan's Donald Fagen likewise dedicated his award to his late bandmate Walter Becker.

"I’d like to thank my partner Walter Becker, wherever he may be," he said in his acceptance speech.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,

Diane Warren received the institution's highest honour

Rainbow Connection writer Paul Williams presented Diane Warren with the Johnny Mercer Award, the highest honour bestowed by the Hall Of Fame, and joked that artificial intelligence "worries about Diane Warren".

Warren is one of the most successful songwriters of her generation, creating hits like Aerosmith's I Don't Want To Miss A Thing, Cher's If I Could Turn Back Time and LeeAnn Rimes's How Do I Live.

"I have to thank my mom for being the first one I had to prove wrong," Warren said. "Songwriting isn’t something I do, it is who I am."

Nile Rodgers presented forthcoming Glastonbury headliner SZA with the Hal David Starlight Award for "gifted young songwriters who are making a significant impact in the music industry."

Also inducted were Nashville hitmaker Hillary Lindsey, who wrote songs like Girl Crush for Little Big Town, and Jesus, Take the Wheel for Carrie Underwood; and Dean Pitchford, who co-wrote 80s pop anthems like Footloose, Fame and Holding Out For a Hero.

Related Topics