Stuart Ramson/AP
Elyssa Yoon-Jung Lee
June 20, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

At Thursday’s 31st annual Songwriters’ Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Manhattan, the awesome lineup of presenters, performers, and honorees included such industry standouts as Puff Daddy, James Taylor, James Brown, Brian Wilson, Hanson, Brian McKnight, Paul McCartney, Carole King, and… Kim Cattrall?

”I’m such a fan,” the ”Sex and the City” star told EW Online, explaining why she was presenting the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award to Neil Diamond. ”Everyone has a Neil Diamond story. When I went to one of his concerts, I wanted to be the Courteney Cox character in that [Bruce Springsteen] video where she gets drawn up on stage. But I could never get that far up front.” Cattrall later purred to the audience: ”My character Samantha spends most of the time kneeling. And she loves diamonds.”

Mr. Diamond himself admitted to being starstruck by the Hall of Fame inductees, who included James Brown, Glenn Frey and Don Henley of the Eagles, Curtis Mayfield, James Taylor, and Brian Wilson. ”Every great songwriter that I’ve ever adored in this rock & roll era is here tonight, and I’m just in a perpetual state of awe. I’m almost left speechless.” For his part, Brian Wilson quipped, ”I was so surprised when I heard about getting inducted, I almost dropped dead.”

”I was surprised to find that Brian hadn’t been inducted earlier,” said Taylor Hanson, one third of the handsome Hanson sons who performed the Beach Boys’ ”God Only Knows.” ”I think that album [Pet Sounds] was such an influential album — not because it was the biggest selling Beach Boys album, but as a landmark of music.” But asked about the less than stellar sales of Hanson’s sophomore album, ”This Time Around,” Taylor admitted, ”In some ways, yeah, we’re disappointed, because you want to be as successful as possible. But we’re really proud of this album, and we’ve been really psyched about the [positive] response from the industry.”

Also paying his respects to the inductees was Brian McKnight, who traveled halfway around the world to give a moving rendition of Mayfield’s ”People Get Ready.” ”I flew back from Australia,” the Grammy nominated artist said. ”Because, of all the awards I get nominated for, when it’s all said and done this is the one I want. Singers come and go, but songs last forever.”

As proof of this, the evening’s finale was a heart-stopping rendition of ”Stand By Me” sung by its cowriter and original vocalist Ben E. King, with a little help from Paul McCartney, James Brown, Aaron Neville, James Taylor, and Neil Diamond. Cattrall even ended up getting her wish, as Diamond took her hand on stage and the two ended up dancing in the dark when the lights came down.

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