The Salt Lake Chamber will honor Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, as the 39th annual “Giant in Our City” this Saturday evening at the Grand America Hotel’s Grand Ballroom.
And while U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who is giving the keynote address, will be the marquee guest at the black-tie event, Grammy award-winning musician-songwriters Monty Powell and Anna Wilson will also be in attendance, and count themselves as “honored and humbled to be a part of this big night.”
Powell and Wilson are among the evening’s musical entertainment, which will also include former Eagles guitarist Don Felder.
The husband-and-wife duo, who now live near Snowbasin Resort in Huntsville for about half the year, previously spent a quarter-century in Nashville writing hits for the likes of country stars Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Reba McEntire, and Brooks & Dunn, among others.
But they also worked with Hatch briefly back in 2012.
Powell said that ahead of that year’s Grammys on the Hill event — an annual function intended to honor musical artists and legislators who work to improve musician royalties generated in the digital era — he got a request to collaborate with Hatch, himself a frequent songwriter, for a surprise performance at the soiree.
They wrote two songs, and, along with Wilson, performed one of them, “High Country,” which Powell noted was “based on our mutual love of mountains and the West.”
They’ve counted themselves as fans of the longest-serving Republican senator in history (who announced he will retire when his current term expires at the end of 2018) ever since.
That Hatch introduced the bipartisan-backed Music Modernization Act into the Senate last month, which seeks to address outdated music licensing laws and generate greater download- and streaming-based royalties for songwriters, endeared him to them further.
So when Zions Bank CEO A. Scott Anderson reached out, offering Powell and Wilson an opportunity to perform for Hatch, they immediately accepted.
“To be able to celebrate one of the biggest advocates for songwriters’ rights, it’s a tremendous opportunity,” Powell said.
“We’re honored and humbled to be a part of this big night,” Wilson added. “… Utah’s become a second home for us, and it’s embraced us and invited us into a really welcoming community. So this is just such a nice way to shine a light on [Hatch’s] third act, and what he’s going to be doing in the community.”
The Salt Lake Chamber established the Giant in Our City award in 1969 as a way for the business group “to honor exceptional and distinguished public service and extraordinary professional achievement.” It normally goes to chief executives, though it has been bestowed on others, such as former Govs. Calvin Rampton and Mike Leavitt, former LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, the late industrialist-philanthropist Jon M. Huntsman Sr., and Mitt Romney — who is running to fill Hatch’s seat in the Senate — who was honored for his work on the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Editor’s note • Paul Huntsman, owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune, is a son of Jon Huntsman Sr.