For the 32nd time in history The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gathered to induct new members. The ceremony was held earlier in April at the Barclay’s Center in New York, but just aired the 3 hour show April 29th on HBO. The show opened with a tribute to Chuck Berry who passed in March. He was actually the very first artist inducted into the Rock Hall. He lived a controversial life, however his influence on music is undeniable. The band who performed the tribute was none other than the first inductee of the night ELO.
ELO is part of the greater theme of the night, most of this year’s inductees had been waiting a long time to be recognized. Dhani Harrison (George’s son) gave a great speech about ELO front man Jeff Lynne who was a close friend of George Harrison while he was alive. It had a few funny parts and a reference to Back to the Future (with Michael J. Fox in attendance). Listening to ELO’s performance and montage package made me realize I actually do like quite a few of their songs, more than I thought I knew. Most people know Evil Woman and Don’t Bring Me Down, but I feel like my favorite is Mr. Blue Sky.
The next 2 inductees are not personal favorites of mine, so I will breeze over them quickly…sorry. Joan Baez, known for her political themed folk music (Blowin in the Wind) and involvement in the civil rights movement, gave a politically themed speech…shocking, I know. She did have a funny story about her granddaughter not knowing who she was though. Yes was another inductee and I’ve gotta say I just have never really liked their stuff. Everytime I see their name on my radio, I say NO and change the channel. Sure, Owner of a Lonely Heart is a catchy 80’s song, but that’s about it. They did perform Roundabout with Geddy Lee of Rush, who gave their induction speech. That song wasn’t bad, but I definitely consider Rush the better of the so called “Prog Rock” bands.
Snoop Dogg then took the stage and gave a great speech with some personal anecdotes while inducting the most unconventional artist of the night, Tupac Shakur. My favorite part of the speech was a funny story about parasailing with Tupac with Suge Knight driving the boat, what a weird scene to imagine. The performance was a medley of hits from various artists. Alicia Keyes kicked it off with some stripped down versions at the piano of Ambitions as a Ridah, I Get Around, I Ain’t Mad at Cha, and Dear Mama. She then got up from the piano for Changes. Snoop did 2 of Amerika’s Most Wanted, Treach did Hail Mary, and T.I. sang Keep ya Head Up wearing the signature doo rag. Quite the medley for the first solo rapper to be inducted into the hall.
Journey was the next inductee to take the stage, which featured the reunion of Steve Perry with his former band, but no performance by Perry. The band’s current vocalist of 10 years, Arnel Pineda sang even though he is not an inductee. They did Lights and probably their most well known song
Although they have many more worthy songs like Separate Ways, Open Arms, Any Way You Want It, Faithfully, and Wheel in the Sky and could’ve played much longer.
Nile Rodgers was then brought up for an Award for Musical Excellence for all his work including producing many artists like David Bowie and Madonna, his work with the band Chic (Le Freak) in the 70’s, and his more current producing with artists like Notorious B.I.G. , Daft Punk and Pharell Williams (who gave the speech about him). I think he is more influential than most even know, so it is sad he wasn’t actually inducted.
There was an In Memoriam sequence with clips of artists, including some Hall of Fame members, that have died in the last year. Leonard Cohen, Al Jarreau, Phil Chess, Leon Russell, J. Geils, Joni Sledge, George Michael, Sharon Jones, and Prince to name a few. Which lead into a tribute performance by Lenny Kravitz with a choir doing When Doves Cry and The Cross by Prince.
Quite an impressive performance and tribute to a legend.
That brought us to the final inductee, and a favorite of mine, Pearl Jam. Neil Young was scheduled to appear but fell ill, so David Letterman came out of hibernation to give a wonderful speech about the band. He started off with the joke that it was an honor and privilege to be out of the house, and he ended it with an emotional story about Eddie Vedder writing his son a touching letter. I have been a fan since the beginning when Ten became a huge hit in 1991. I had the honor of seeing them only once at Madison Square Garden and they gave a hell of a show. Their speech was very humble and grateful, and they recognized all the different drummers they’ve worked with throughout their career, featuring 2 during their performance. Honestly it made me feel old watching them join the Hall and listen to their career retrospective performance. They sang Alive, Given to Fly , and Better Man (complete with crowd sing along). Great stuff and hope to see their career continue and maybe I can see them in concert again one day.
The night then ended with a group performance as usual. Pearl Jam was joined on stage by members of Yes and Journey as they did Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World. Eddie ended the performance with Hello Cleveland! It was a great night with a little something for everyone. Fans of all styles were appeased from folk to rap to rock. I personally love the Rock Hall induction ceremony and make sure to watch every year. I will be pumped next year as it returns to it’s rightful home, Cleveland. If you’ve never been to the actual Rock Hall in Cleveland and are a fan of music, get there as soon as you can.