Leonard Cohen and Chuck Berry were honoured as the first two recipients of the Pen New England's Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award on Sunday (26Feb12) at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts.
Berry was saluted at the event by Paul Simon, Elvis Costello and unannounced special guest Keith Richards, while author Salman Rushdie presented Cohen's award.
Bob Dylan sent a tribute to both musicians via email, which was read out at the ceremony.
Dylan called Berry "the Shakespeare of rock 'n' roll" and Cohen "the Kafka of the blues".
Rushdie told Cohen he was a longtime admirer of his lyrics, stating, "Put simply, if I could write like that, I would."
There was a treat for guests when Berry chose to perform Johnny B. Goode onstage with Costello's guitar instead of giving an acceptance speech.
The evening closed with Richards and Costello running through Berry's Promised Land.
Costello, Simon, Rushdie, Bono and Smokey Robinson were among the panel which selected the first songwriters to receive the award.