UK acts Queen, Phil Collins and Van Morrison were honoured at the Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards in New York on Thursday.
Brian May said Freddie Mercury would have been touched
They were all inducted into the hall of fame alongside soul singer Patti LaBelle, crooner Tony Bennett and record-company chief Clive Davis.
Queen's guitarist Brian May accepted the award for the hugely successful band, which was led by flamboyant singer Freddie Mercury who died in 1991.
"I do think that maybe now people are looking at more depth to what we did," he said.
"Yes, we were pretty flashy and we were pretty loud and at moments we seemed very outrageous, but there was a lot of honest craftsmanship that went on behind that."
He said Mercury would have been touched by the honour.
Bennett is one of America's favourite crooners
Belfast-born Van Morrison played his hit Crazy Love with US blues singer Ray Charles.
And LaBelle, whose hits include On My Own and Lady Marmalade, said: "I feel like a queen, and I don't think I'm worthy."
She was given the lifetime achievement award, previously won by Quincy Jones and Tony Bennett.
Bennett, 76, won towering performance award this year for his performance of the standard I Left My Heart in San Francisco.
And music mogul Davis received the hitmaker award. He helped launch the careers of Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys.