Rock and Roll history was made Thursday night in Los Angeles when Heart, Rush, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, the late disco queen Donna Summer, the late bluesman Albert King, and producers Quincy Jones and Lou Adler were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The 2013 class of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame was inducted at the Nokia Theater downtown, the first time the show has been in L.A. since 1993.
Rush energized the crowd, Flavor Flav left them dazed and confused, and a disco queen and blues legend were brought to life through music.
The show kicked off with a montage of great moments from ceremonies past, then launched into the first performance; inductee Randy Newman, sitting in his rightful place behind a piano, singing his hit “I Love L.A.” The Oscar winner and satirist was joined on stage by Tom Petty, John Fogerty, and Jackson Browne. Newman was inducted by friend Don Henley of the Eagles, who said “This is one of those inductions that is long overdue. In fact, it is shamefully overdue.”
During his own speech, Newman made reference to how long it’s taken him to get into the Hall, quipping “20 years ago when there was a flurry of activity on my behalf, I thought I might get in, and then I did think I was going to have to die and I’d be watching from below with my relatives.” Then it was back to the piano for renditions of “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today,” and “I’m Dead But I Don’t Know It,” backed by Henley.
Next, the comedy duo of Cheech and Chong took the stage to induct famed producer Lou Adler. The comedians talked about walking into Adler’s office in 1971 and being impressed by the gold records on the walls and cocaine on the desk. Accepting the honor, Adler, the producer behind acts including The Mamas and The Papas and Carole King, thanked many people including his seven sons, and he asked his wife not to cry. He then said when asked how he wants to be known, it’s not for his accomplishments, but “as the guy in the hat and beard who sits next to Jack Nicholson at the Lakers games.” Fittingly, Nicholson was sitting at Adler’s table in the audience. Carole King then sang “So Far Away.”
Legendary bluesman Albert King was inducted posthumously by John Mayer. The guitarist spoke of idolizing King from an early age, even using the King quote “The Blues Don’t Change” in his high school yearbook. The honor was accepted by King’s daughter Evelyn Smith and granddaughter Alice Johnson, who remembered as a little girl dancing in the garage while her granddad practiced with Charlie Brown and Issac Hayes. After the speech, King’s “Oh Pretty Woman (Can’t Make You Love Me)” was performed by Gary Clark Jr., who then launched into “Born Under A Bad Sign,” while joined by Mayer on guitar and Booker T. Jones on keyboards.
Singer Kelly Rowland took the stage to posthumously induct “a queen,” Donna Summer, who died last year before knowing she had made it into the hall. Talking about Summer’s hit “Love To Love You Baby,” she told the crowd “I’m pretty sure that me, and a lot of ya’ll up in here, were made to that record.” Summer’s husband Bruce Sudano and their three daughters accepted the honor, and he confessed “This is obviously a bittersweet moment for the obvious reasons.” Jennifer Hudson then performed two of Summer’s biggest hits, “Bad Girls” and “Last Dance” while wearing a disco inspired form fitting sequined cat suit. Hudson was supposed to be joined by Christina Aguilera, but she had to pull out before the show due to illness.
Oprah was a surprise guest and walked on stage to big applause to induct one of the most successful producers of all time, Quincy Jones. She proclaimed “I’m rarely at a loss for words, but when it comes to trying to find the words that describe Quincy Jones and what he means to me, I’m at a loss for words.”
She went on to list his many accomplishments: a record 79 Emmy nominations, 27 wins, and producer of the best selling album of the world, Thriller. What she couldn’t know is that one of those accomplishments would be for longest speech of the night, only rivaled by Flavor Flav. Jones told tales of his storied career and named dropped everyone from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson to Hillary Clinton. He proclaimed that “music is the soul of our country,” but lamented the fact that in his opinion, every country in the world knows more about American music than America. Then Usher, dressed in what looked like a black leather suit with a red bowtie, performed the Jones-produced Michael Jackson hit “Rock With You” while dancing some of Jackson’s signature moves.
Harry Belafonte was tapped to induct Public Enemy, and the legendary singer, songwriter, actor, and activist was introduced by Spike Lee, wearing his “Mookie” shirt from “Do The Right Thing.” He insisted the movie would hardly be as powerful as it was without the Public Enemy Song “Fight The Power” blaring from his boombox.
Belafonte then came out and introduced the rappers, saying, “When they urged the world to fight the power they were never afraid to use their personal power to speak truth.” Not surprisingly, Flavor Flav hogged most of the spotlight, rambling for what seemed like an eternity, and thanking everyone from Miles Davis to God to his seven children, whom he named one by one as the camera cut to a guy in crowd shaking his head in what appeared to be boredom and frustration.
Chuck D tried several times to wrap Flav up, and the clock-wearing rapper pointed to his chest, adorned with his signature jumbo timepiece, and proclaimed “I’ve got nothing but time.” He did say that he’d been wearing the same clock since 1987, vowing only to take it off when the group made it into the Hall of Fame, so this was the last night he’d be seen wearing it. Though he did promise to start wearing another clock.
Chuck D spoke briefly compared to his group-mate, saying he was proud to keep company with fellow Hall members, including Grandmaster Flash and The Beastie Boys. And he had an answer to critics who see them get inducted and think there goes the neighborhood: “Let us not forget, we all come from the damn blues.” Immediately after Chuck D finished, Flavor Flav grabbed the mic in an attempt to keep talking, but mercifully someone had cut if off. The group then performed a medley of their hits, including “Bring The Noise” and “Fight The Power.” There was a also a DJ battle between DJ Lord and Terminator X, who mixed and scratched hits from the night’s other inductees, including Donna Summer and Rush.
The band Heart was inducted by fellow Seattle native Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. Taking the microphone first, Nancy Wilson lyrically proclaimed that “It is tremendously beautiful to be included here in this eagle’s nest of fellow muses.” Talking about the role of women in rock, she said when she was growing up, women were expected to become one of four things: “teachers, mothers, nurses, or waitresses.” Sister and lead singer Ann told the crowd that they were lucky they got the chance to achieve such success, and when they didn’t get the chance, they made it. They then rocked two of their hits, “Crazy On You” and “Barracuda,” with the slower “Dreamboat Annie” sandwiched in between. Alice In Chains’ Jerry Cantrell and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready joined the band on “Barracuda.”
By the far the most applause of the night came for Rush, whose long suffering fans have been waiting since 1998, the first year the band was eligible for the Hall, for even a nomination. In what was easily the funniest induction speech of the night, The Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl listed of several mysteries of life, and then said the biggest is “when the f**k did Rush become cool?” Drummer Neil Peart took the stage with a big smile and told the crowd “we were saying for a long time that this wasn’t a big deal. Turns out, it kind of is.” Lead singer Geddy Lee remarked “this is overwhelming for a nice Jewish boy from Toronto.” And guitarist Alex Lifeson had one of the most bizarre but endearing speeches of the night, saying nothing but the word “blah.” But through his pantomiming, you could tell he was sincerely thanking his band mates and fans. Then the performances begin, with Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, and Nick Raskulinecz comically dressed as 1970’s era Rush, performing the overture to 2112. Rush then came out and burned through “Tom Sawyer” and “The Spirit of Radio,” bringing the house to its feet and the show to a close.
The 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony airs Saturday, May 18th at 9 p.m. Eastern time on HBO.
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