We cannot waste any time here. THE 37TH ANNUAL ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME INDUCTION CEREMONY was a 5-hour gig and this special only crunches it down slightly. The big reason for that is that it is jam-packed with fourteen honorees this year. The event was staged at the Microsoft Theater in LA and major talents assembled to present, honor, cheer, and rock. As is the nature of this institution and what it represents it is filled with controversy and surprise and this year proved no different. I wouldn’t have it any other way really; ‘bold’ & ‘rebellious’ are in the definition of what is ‘rock and roll’. But trying to define that term has always been at the heart of the grumbles about the Hall so, let’s jump past that and get right to it.
I don’t have three hours to commit to this in one sitting so I watched it in segments. As we start, we lose, as we always do, any sort of introduction the show may have and get right to the first induction which is –
DURAN DURAN was inducted by Robert Downey Jr.
Formed in 1978 by John Taylor (bass) and Nick Rhodes (keyboards) who quickly sought out Roger Taylor (drummer), Andy Taylor (guitarist), Warren Cuccurullo (guitarist stepping in for Andy T.), and Simon Le Bon (vocalist) to create infectious pop melodies concealing complicated musical arrangements; pioneering synthesizers combined with distorted glam rock guitars and dominating the scene. We get a reminder of their sound with the songs “Girls On Film”, “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Ordinary World”. Missing was Andy Taylor and unfortunately, the time spent at the podium was the news of his tragic health issues with stage 4 cancer. DURAN DURAN lives on still recording and their sound is just as exciting as ever with the emotional and strong form of Le Bon. I’ll confess that I have all their albums, even their latest, but most of them are still on the original tape cassettes I bought 40 years ago.
JIMMIE JAM & TERRY LEWIS were inducted by Janet Jackson
Jimmie Jam & Terry Lewis were lauded in a video by Mary J Blige, Usher, and Mariah Carey, and also included older clips from The Human League and George Michael presenting praise for this powerhouse producing team. They receive acknowledgment via a Musical Excellence Award. Producers are often in the background; you are never sure what albums they had a strong hand in getting made. They need to be honored as well as the front & center performers. Jam & Lewis became innovators of the Minneapolis sound, an exciting blend of jazz, soul, R&B, funk, disco, early punk, new wave, and dance. They were pioneers of incredibly smooth and funky synth-laden grooves and worked their magic time after time, with Janet Jackson mostly, and other artists like Prince, New Edition, and Mary J. Blige, and defined the ‘Minneapolis Sound’.
PAT BENATAR and NICK GIRALDO were inducted by Sheryl Crow
A heartfelt tribute by Crow here. You might not have noticed it at the time of Benatar’s youth but looking back, now, as Crow & the video clip did, you can see the empowerment Benatar gave women with her tough, rough & ready attitude & sound. And that sound was punk that blew up huge. Beside Benatar was the heavy jams from Giraldo who ramped up each and every number. “All Fired Up”, “Love Is A Battlefield” and ‘Heartbreaker” was their solid set at the ceremony and they nailed it yet again. They still are a powerful rock couple.
JIMMY IOVINE was inducted by Bruce Springsteen (Ahmet Ertegun Award)
This a smart little video clip, with testimonies from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Stevie Nicks, Gwen Stefani, the late Tom Petty, and more. What this music producer accomplished and the artists he worked with are mind-blowing. Just to name a few there are the breakout albums for Patti Smith (Easter), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Damn the Torpedoes), Stevie Nicks (Bella Donna), and U2 (Rattle and Hum) under his care. That was before we founded Interscope Records, home to rock & roll’s most provocative, groundbreaking artists, including Nine Inch Nails, Tupac Shakur, 50 Cent, and Lady Gaga, and introduced fans to buzzworthy artists like No Doubt and the Black Eyed Peas. There is no question that he deserved the honor.
ELIZABETH COTTEN an Early Influence honor
Hot damn, could she play! She was a self-taught left-handed guitarist who played the guitar strung for a right-handed player but played it upside down. I’m glad to get to know her and her talent as a blues/folk player. I will never forget “Freight Train.”
JUDAS PRIEST was inducted by Alice Cooper (Award for Musical Excellence)
Note that this band gets a Musical Excellence honor as opposed to a Performance honor. Technically Judas Priest could have taken an Early Influence honor as the band is the precursor for heavy metal bands today. Alice Cooper was the perfect presenter for this induction citing that this band set the tone of what heavy metal was to look like. With dual guitar attack, driving riffs, and soaring operatic vocals they blazed the trail and held up well enough at the ceremony with “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight.” Past & present members of the band assembled for the honor and they represented heavy metal, an underappreciated genre at the Hall, quite nicely, black leather and all.
SYLVIA ROBINSON (Ahmet Ertegun Award)
As the video tribute testifies, she co-founded Sugarhill Records. Hearing the transition from her slinky rock ‘n’ roll tune “Love Is Strange” to the funky “Rapper’s Delight” (which she co-wrote and produced) of the Sugarhill Gang, shows just how innovative she has been in the music industry. She was a pioneer for what women could do in the industry. And you also about now in the show get the idea that the Hall was out to declare the influence of women in general to the industry.
CARLY SIMON was Inducted by Sara Bareilles
Sadly, Carly Simon was not present for the honor. It would have been nice to have seen and heard her once again but two family deaths in a short period of time superseded the matter. Bareilles gives us Simon’s essence in her words, however. She spoke of the inductee’s “fierce intelligence and vulnerability,” her unique blend of “music and literature,” and calls her an “arrow of truth.” Mt favorite songs of hers are “Nobody Does It Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me and “Let the Rivers Run.” We do get a little from each in the video tribute and that first song, from the 007 flick is performed live by Bareilles. But the song that just had to be heard was “You’re So Vain.” It was done so by Olivia Rodrigo, but it didn’t have the robust bite the originator gave it. It did generate a great sing-along moment though. A disappointment not to have Carly Simon present but she did offer a note that read in part, “I am humbled, shocked, proud, over-achieved, under-qualified, and singularly grateful to everyone without whom I really couldn’t be here.” She always was a good writer.
ALLEN GRUBMAN was inducted by John Mellencamp (Ahmet Ertegun Award)
Yes, a lawyer, evidently, has a great influence on the rock and roll industry when your clients are some of rock and roll’s biggest stars, including Bruce Springsteen, U2, Sting, John Mellencamp, Madonna, Lionel Richie, Elton John, Lady Gaga, and many more. It doesn’t hurt that he was a co-founder of the Hall either. Mr. Grubman was very flattered by the honor and held back strong emotions to get through his Thank Yous. That emotion was surely fueled by Mellencamp’s declaration that there is no place for antisemitism in the world. A needed statement well placed here at this event.
HARRY BELLEFONTE an Early Influence honor
His career lit a fuse, set a spark, and was infectious. “The Banana Boat Song” is a reflection of that. But he didn’t get inducted for that song alone, it was his bright presence always, his humanitarian outreach, and his charismatic aura that lit up any space as an ambassador of music, lively flare, and hope.
LIONEL RITCHIE was Inducted by Lenny Kravitz.
Come on, come on, everyone knows the Lionel Ritchie songbook; oh, so sweet love songs to soaring party anthems. He started with the funk of the Commodores, (not in the Hall) but it is his pop, and ballads from his solo career honored here. To hear him tell it, “rock & roll is a vibe” and he has tapped into it time and time again. He just carries himself so well and brings you right into what he has to say. His thank you speech was precise and perfect and then he walked over to the grand piano awaiting him and he quickly took us back to his musical world with “Hello,” “Easy” (with guest David Grohl with a solo guitar moment) and “All Night Long.” A master of his craft with multiple musical honors over the years makes his songbook one hard to forget.
EURYTHMICS was inducted by The Edge
Sweet dreams are still being made by this pop-rock duo of Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart. Sort of. They haven’t cut a new album in ages and don’t really tour but they prove that they still can do it years later. They perform “Would I Lie to You,” “Missionary Man” and “Sweet Dreams” with their style well intact. They helped define a generation with their mix of funk, gospel, and with Lennox at the mic, stealthy feminism, and memorable fashion and imagery. To see that she could still pull that off decades later was a cool moment. The Edge said it right, “To explore this kind of pain in songs so bright and uplifting is almost impossible, but therein lies the genius of Eurythmics.”
IN MEMORIAM was slipped in here for the HBO broadcast but was actually placed at the end of the show. After a video montage of recently passed musical souls like Olivia Newton-John, Meatloaf, Loretta Lynn, Coolio, Pharoah Sandler, Mickey Gilley, Bobby Rydell, Joe Messina, Taylor Hawkins, Ronnie Spector, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp did a tribute of Jerry Lee Lewis songs but it actually took place at the end of the ceremony but was edited into the middle of the show for broadcast. Backed by the Zac Brown they performed “High School Confidential” and “Great Balls of Fire.”
EMINEM was Inducted by Dr. Dre
As the single best-selling artist of the 2000s, a 15-time Grammy winner, and the first artist to have ten consecutive Number One debut albums no one can top Eminem as he boldly gave recognition to and help cement the genre we call hip-hop. And he gave a great set for us all. He performs “My Name Is,” “Rap God,” “Sing for the Moment” with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, (HANG IN THERE STEVEN AND BEAT IT THIS TIME BEFORE IT BEATS YOU PERMANENTLY), “Stan” with Ed Sheeran, “Forever,” and “Not Afraid.” He is a fighter, a scrapper, and not afraid to rant about what’s on his mind, heart and soul. He gives it all up and then thanks about a hundred people by name for getting him to that place. The show could have ended right there.
DOLLY PARTON was Inducted by Pink
There is no question that Dolly Parton is a great storyteller & songwriter. There is no question she is a great musical superstar. There is no question she has tons of accolades and honors awarded to her, so why does she need this one? She didn’t even what the nomination. She ran with it once she was selected as an artist not shirking one more chance onstage and we must roll with it.
What it does is once again blur the definition of the term “rock and roll.” As I mentioned earlier, Lionel Ritchie says it is “a vibe” and by that vague definition Parton has got that “vibe” in spades. Bottom line is that it is a whole lot cooler to say the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame than the Popular Music Hall of Fame. That is why all genres of modern music are represented by early blues rock, hair band rock, soft rock to punk, heavy metal to folk, funk, electronic and hip-hop. Now we are just adding country music to the mix with Dolly Parton. Under that definition she belongs, country twang and all.
However, I’d rather the HBO broadcast had ended with Eurythmics or with all joining in on the Jerry Lee Lewis tribute than with “Coat of Many Colors,” “Nine to Five” and the final number, “Jolene.”
Long Live Rock And Roll (however you define it)!
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