NEW YORK (AP) – The creators of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” “She’s Gone,” “Let’s Stay Together” and “American Pie” are all getting their due.

The Songwriters Hall of Fame inducts the Motown team of Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield; the blue-eyed soul duo Daryl Hall and John Oates; soulman turned preacher Al Green and folkie Don McLean on Thursday. The hall is also inducting Charles Fox, writer of Roberta Flack’s hit “Killing Me Softly.”

Stevie Wonder, Neil Sedaka and Rob Thomas of matchbox twenty also are getting special awards at the 35th annual ceremony.

“It’s great to have songwriters who are in the tradition of the best songwriters that America ever had ask you to join them,” McLean told The Associated Press Thursday.

McLean had other hits, including “Vincent (Starry Starry Night).” But he’ll forever be known for “American Pie,” the sprawling ode to a more innocent era keyed to “the day that music died,” when Buddy Holly died in a plane crash.

“It really was a phenomenon,” he said. “I think it changed the world in a tiny way. I’m tremendously proud of it.”

McLean, who now lives in Maine, spent much of the 1980s in litigation making sure he had control of his work. He even trademarked the phrase, “American Pie,” meaning he profited when a movie of the same name was made.

Strong and Whitfield, who also wrote “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” for the Temptations, had their biggest moments when the Motown sound took a grittier turn in the late 1960s.

Green, one of the most seductive soul singers of the 1970s, renounced popular music for a long period but recently made a comeback disc.

Hall and Oates are still performing. They had a long string of hits in the 1980s, but 1970s work like “She’s Gone” and “Sara Smile” has proven more durable.

Besides “Killing Me Softly,” Fox wrote some of the best-known TV themes – for “Happy Days,” “Laverne & Shirley” and “Love Boat.”

Now that he’s being immortalized for his songwriting, does McLean have any advice for aspiring songwriters?

“Do not learn how to read music,” he said. “Do not bore yourself with learning how to be a technician. … Learn things that make you feel good inside and learn to hear the language of music with your ears.”

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AP-ES-06-10-04 1606EDT

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